The Trials are for Your Glory

If you had told me last December that 2020 would be the hardest year of my life, I would have looked at you, laughed, and said, “no, 2016 was,” and carried on with my day. Now, four months into 2020, I would unfortunately have to tell you that you were correct. In a matter of weeks, I moved across my college campus and away from all my friends, lost relationships, started failing a class, and got turned down from multiple jobs. My family life that was once full of joy was suddenly full of sorrow, and my granddad’s health started failing. About eighty percent of the days have been filled with tears, and not the silent tears that you can brush away and carry on with your day, but the kind that break you and leave you in a crumpled heap wondering where God is. More often than not, I have cried myself to sleep crying out to the Lord for help and have woken up the next morning just to find myself crying again. My arms have been tired from being lifted, and my legs have been sore from being bent at the knees. Puffy eyes and salt deposits on my face have seemed to become the adornment of my head. This year has caused me to say with David, 

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day.”

-Psalm 13:1-2

To only be two decades old, my life has been full of heartache and anguish. While most of my heartache has been caused by my sin, some have been caused by the sin of others, and still, some have not been caused by sin at all. Nevertheless, I have seen both beautifully good and horridly bad things go through my hands, knowing that was the Lord’s purpose (Job 2:10; 10:13). This year has been no different. I have been left hurting, wanting, and questioning what the Lord’s plan is. I have seen the gravity and ugliness of my sin and the sin of others. I have seen pride, selfishness, lack of forgiveness, and outright forsakenness of the gospel. I have questioned the Lord’s goodness, earnestly desiring to see some glimmer of hope and have asked the Lord to bless me. And in return, like Jacob (Genesis 32:26,31), I have been given a limp. 

The Blessing 

But the limp is the blessing. The limp is a reminder that the Lord has spared my life from the depths of Sheol and let me see the morning (Psalm 30:3). This season has reminded me to look back and see the Lord’s faithfulness, and just like in past seasons, remember that when I felt most forsaken, the Lord was weaving everything together for my good (Psalm 77:11). When the Lord allows trials, he does not allow them because he is punishing us, but because he is accomplishing something in us that cannot be accomplished by any other means. The Lord, in all of his sovereignty, is shaping and preparing us through the afflictions and sorrows for an eternal weight of glory that we could not even dream of (2 Corinthians 4:17). 

This does not mean I have not gotten on my knees and faithfully asked the Lord to change my situations; I encourage you to get on your knees. I believe that the Lord restores and redeems broken situations that seem impossible to us. When we pray for situations in our lives to be changed, we should pray with hope and confidence that the gospel of God’s grace will be proclaimed in situations that are without. The Lord delights in giving his children good gifts and delights in them coming to him and asking (Matthew 7:11). The Lord might say “yes” to our prayers, but he could also say “no.” And if God says “no,” if the worst happens, we can proclaim with Habakkuk that we will rejoice in the Lord, and we will truly find joy in the God of our salvation (Habakkuk 3:18). If we receive a “no” to our prayers, we can rest knowing that the Lord is indeed working things for our good and his glory in ways that we cannot see or fathom (Romans 8:28). 

We Have Been Given More

The Lord withholds no good thing (Psalm 84:11), and that is because He is every good thing. And in this season, he has given me more of himself than I could ever ask for. What bigger blessing can we be given than receiving more of God himself? I have grown to be thankful for the trials because the trials are where we find hope, where our faith is strengthened, and where we learn to trust where we did not before; the Lord will not put our hearts to shame (Romans 5:5). Walking in the valley with Jesus is just as precious as walking with him in the light, and sharing in his suffering will do far better things for us than sitting in comfort (1 Peter 4:13).

As has been my anthem since the day the Lord saved my soul, I can say that Jesus is enough for me. Some days I have to fight to proclaim that more than others, but it still holds. Friends, we can say with David that the Lord is our portion and cup. We can rejoice in our beautiful inheritance to come. We will not be shaken, because God is at our right hand sustaining our every breath. Our hearts can be glad because we are secure in him. He has made known to us the paths of life, and in him, we can experience fullness of joy (Psalm 16). The Lord has granted me peace I cannot understand. He has aligned my heart’s desires with his will: wait and pray faithfully that hearts will be changed, and his glory will be magnified, even if the answer is “no.” It is a humbling experience knowing that when we pray for the Lord’s will to happen and for God to be glorified, the answer is always “yes” in Christ; it is a guarantee (1 John 5:14, 2 Corinthians 1:20). 

Turn Your Eyes to Jesus

As I look back over the past few months, I would not trade it for anything. The Lord has shaped my heart in ways I did not know it could be shaped and has given me grace for every moment. He has shown me his kindness, forgiveness, and love and has equipped me to extend it to others, reminding me all the while that I am the chief of sinners. This season has made me long for heaven, earnestly asking that the Lord complete his work in me and take me home, for that would be my greatest possible gain (Philippians 1:21). Trials shape us in a lot of ways, and one way is to remind us that this world is not our home, further reminding us of the victory bought by Christ’s blood (Hebrews 13:14).

The Lord has held every one of my tears in his hand, just as he holds yours, and I know he will not stop now (Psalm 56:8). How amazing is it that we serve a God that groans and intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26)? When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt to wander in the desert, he did not lead them there to forsake them. Instead, he provided for their every need and brought them to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:10-12). The Lord will not forsake you, and he will supply your every need (Philippians 4:19). May we be a people who, when stricken with sorrow, rejoice (2 Corinthians 6:10) knowing that Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). Oh, brothers and sisters, taste and see that the Lord is good; sing for joy, and know that the trials are for your glory.

Faith vs. Belief: A Study on Salvation

Ever since 1517 and the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door, Protestants have been known for a commitment to salvation by grace through faith alone. This Reformation was a call for the Church to return to its roots because it recognized that biblical salvation is a direct result of faith alone as it is attributed to faith alone over 50 times within the New Testament. Despite the beauty of this biblical doctrine, “Sola Fide” has been often marred and manipulated by a modernized Western church seeking a “cheap faith” that is, in reality, a mere form of intellectual assent. 

Regardless, the Bible preaches salvation by faith alone, so we must also. Again, we preach salvation by faith alone. Not belief alone. We, as Americans, have been inadvertently and falsely taught that faith and belief are, for all practical purposes, in fact one in the same. But maybe there’s more to “faith” than simply the acknowledgement of what is true.

Faith From the Perspective of a New Testament Writer

In the Greek, the word that translates into the English as “faith” is πίστις. As defined by the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, πίστις is understood to be “conviction of the truth of anything” and includes with it the idea of “trust and holy fervor.” Surprisingly, the technical modern day definition has hardly changed, and it is generally defined by Merriam Webster as a type of “allegiance” or “loyalty.” 

However, because the word “faith” in everyday conversation has become so overused in referring to a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”, this is the way we typically envision it. More significantly, this is the way we read the word “faith” when we see it in Scripture, but this was not the intention of the writer then and therefore is still not the intention today. 

With this in mind, “faith alone” and “conviction of the truth, trust, and holy fervor alone” should theoretically invoke the same mental image when we hear each phrase. So yes, salvation is by faith alone, but it is extremely important to know what the writer originally meant when he said “faith.” A misunderstanding here can be dangerous.

Scripture’s Definition of Faith

It’s always a good idea to enlist the services of the Almighty God who possesses all the authority, wisdom, and knowledge necessary to define a word, especially when that word is the central theme of His own book. So what’s the Holy Spirit’s definition of faith? 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
-Hebrews 11:1

Based upon this verse, I believe that faith is where intellectual acknowledgement and desperation collide. Not only is it the convicted assurance of what we do not physically see, but it is also the assurance of something we are genuinely hoping for – something we genuinely need. This passage assumes that there exists a large capsule of hope within the heart that truly possesses faith, and this kind of hope implies a thirst and desire for something we do not yet have. Paul more fully explains this hope in his letter to the Romans.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
-Romans 8:22-25

To put these things together, biblical faith could be described as hope for the redemption of all creation, including one’s own soul, from the effects of sin and death’s decay, brought about by the convicted assurance of something not yet physically present (2 Cor. 4:16-18). My question is once again this: Does this define the faith of the American church?

Salvation Throughout Scripture

For this section, I have chosen what I believe to be three of the most commonly used “Salvation Verses” in the Bible for further analysis. Upon participating in some brief exploration of each, I quickly discovered the remarkable depth to these verses that we are blinded from seeing by the bright lights of familiarity and cliché. As it has been wisely noted, “the greatest enemy of faith is not fear; it is familiarity.”

because, if you confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
-Romans 10:9-10

Sounds simple enough right? Initially, it seems like Paul is saying that to be saved, you must simply say a few words and then acknowledge the validity of a historical event, namely, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. However, with this interpretation, what we miss in the passage is the word “heart.” 

When the word “believe” is used, it is typically defined as an intellectual function of the brain. But if Scripture was trying to communicate academic agreement, it would have instead said “believe in your mind” or maybe even “be fully convinced in your mind” or something more along those lines. 

However, that is not what the passage says. It actually attaches the word “belief” with the word “heart.” The clear distinction we must make is that believing in your heart is in fact different from believing in your head. 

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
-James 2:19

Now, I am under the impression that demons do not possess the faith necessary to obtain eternal life in heaven, and I hope you would agree. So in order to grasp what this kind of heartfelt belief looks like, let’s look at perhaps the most quoted Bible verse in America:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
-John 3:16

As the most popular verse in the entire Bible, John 3:16 has certainly received its fair share of air time, but what most people have never read are the two verses directly before.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
-John 3:14-15

To figure out what the belief in the Son of Man that leads to salvation actually is, we must look at the story that Christ is referencing in the Old Testament. The story occurs within Numbers 21 in verses 4 through 9, while the Israelites are in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land after recently being freed from their slavery to Egypt. The people begin to doubt the goodness of God and sin against Him by complaining that the food that God has given to them is not good enough. Because of this, God sends judgement upon the people in the form of what the Bible calls “fiery serpents.” The serpents bring death to many of the Israelites while also bringing about repentant hearts within others. The members of this second group confess their sin, and God provides a path for their healing by asking Moses to set up a pole with a bronze serpent on it. With one glance at this bronze serpent, those seeking healing will be healed from the effects of the fiery snakes.

From this passage, there are three brief things that are important to notice when interpreting the meaning of John 3:14-16. These three things are repentance of sin, willful seeking of healing, and a trusting in the provision of God as the source of redemption. The people actually felt guilty and understood their need for rescue, they sought healing in something outside of themselves, and they found this forgiveness, mercy, and love from the God who freely offers it to those who seek it. This is the kind of faith and belief that Jesus is teaching in John 3:16, and it is the basis for all other Scriptural teaching on salvation. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
-Ephesians 2:8-9

Other than an explicit teaching against a “faith plus works” theology on salvation, this passage reveals that even the faith we have is a gift from God. Now, does intellectual agreement require an act of God? Certainly not, because, as we have seen, demons believe in God. No work gets us into heaven, including the “work” of believing that no work will get us into heaven. 

It is the faith itself, a gift of God, and not the belief in “salvation by faith” that saves. Belief in something does not require anything supernatural, but Scripture teaches that the faith that brings about salvation does. So what’s the difference? What does the Christian saved through faith possess that the nominal Christian who supposedly believes does not?

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
-Romans 8:14-16

The true child of the living God has the Spirit of God within them and a new heart that cries out “Abba,” the Hebrew word signifying personal intimacy between father and child. As Charles Simeon puts it, 

For a nominal Christian is content with proving the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. But the true Christian loves it, delights in it, glories in it, and shudders at the very thought of glorying in anything else.

So, faith is a gift of God. It is planted into the contrite heart and broken spirit that seeks redemption, through the Father’s provision, from the condemnation brought about by sin. It is the point where a correct understanding of truth and heartfelt desperation meet. This truth is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and this desperation finds its fulfillment in the Christian’s hope for future vindication – the freedom of all creation from its temporal bondage to death. 

Faith is expressly seen through an inexplicable trust in God and fervor for his Kingdom that flow from the Spirit of God within the Christian’s new heart that inevitably leads to good works for the glory of God. This is biblical faith (Phil. 4:7).

But What About James 2:24?

This is totally a fair question. After all, the only place in the entire New Testament where you can find the phrase “faith alone” is actually in this verse:

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
-James 2:24

First, we must interpret Scripture with other Scripture by using the 50+ verses attributing salvation to an act of faith. Second, we must interpret Scripture within the context of that specific passage. When James uses the word “faith” in verse 24, he has already defined what he means by this in verse 14, and this is not the kind of faith that we have seen so far throughout the New Testament. The faith that will alone never justify anyone is a “dead faith”, a faith without works. While a “dead faith” justifies no one (with or without works), real faith is a “living faith” that justifies man before God, and good works are simply what externally reveal the inward reality of the faith’s condition.

It is also abundantly clear within Scripture that even the good works you do after receiving salvation are the acts of God working through you (Phil 2:12-13, Eph 2:10, John 15:4-5, Heb 13:21, etc.). So, if you believe that your works justify you before God, remember that your works are not even your own. These righteous works are simply the Spirit’s gift of “faith working itself out through love” (Gal 5:6). While belief has to work, faith longs to do so.

So Then How Is One Saved?

Well, it is definitely worth noting that this conversation is only happening because most people who call themselves Christians today are not actually internally bothered and grieved by their own sin. Instead, they are merely bothered by the idea of going to hell. Faith, therefore, looks to them more like belief, because there is nothing within their heart truly begging for healing. In other words, the good news is just news to those who are not poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3-6). But, when this type of pleading is indeed the case, the gospel is much more simple:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
-Matthew 11:28

So, to those who are weary from the seemingly hopeless fight against sin; to those who are weary from the burdens of bad decisions made in the past; to those who are weary from relentless attempts to be good enough, nice enough, righteous enough, kind enough, perfect enough, or whatever enough; and to those who are heavy laden upon discovering that you will never be; come find rest in Jesus. 

Though the world lies to you in an attempt to ignore the problem by telling you that “You are enough,” Christ instead chooses to love you regardless of the fact that you are not enough. He has paid for all your sin on the cross and has defeated sin, death, and the grave on your behalf. Now, He calls out to you under one simple condition: Follow me. And what a privilege it is to do so.

Audience of One: Overcoming Idolatry in Sports

Sports are arguably one of the most influential forms of entertainment in the world.  The feeling of gathering with friends and family to root for your favorite team is unlike any other.  From athletes giving up their bodies for their respective sports teams to die hard sports fans yelling at the opposing team, the feeling is hard to beat. Looking at this from a Christian standpoint, is there a limit to which we should place our love for sports? Are there boundaries that we should observe?  

Growing up in a Christian home, weekly church attendance was an unavoidable requirement. My father and my mother continue to instill strong Christian values into my siblings and me. My parents always remind us where our hope lies and who we should place at the head of our lives, so we may lean on Jesus in times of desperation and despair. Jesus is the head of my life and the most important person to everyone in my family.  

Sports are another prominent part of my life. Since the age of five I have dreamed of playing professional baseball. Going to the baseball park on Saturday mornings in the lovely weather with my friends and family was an unmatched pleasure. Rushing to the concession stand after a win (or a loss), home run trots, and the roar of the ballpark are experiences not easily forgotten.  However, these good times never prevented us from waking up the next morning for Sunday school, no matter how late extra innings caused us to stay at the park. My parent’s refusal to allow anything to overtake our relationship with Christ led to the implementation of God into the sports I played. My dad and I always had conversations about what would be required to make it into the big show. His advice was unwavering in every conversation regarding sports; from little league to high school it was the same: God and hard work. While I am not technically on the path to be the next Jackie Robinson, I still find this advice relevant for my current situation. 

How We Mistakenly View Sports

We all have the tendency to elevate temporal things over eternal matters. Some of us instinctively place our time and trust into experiences that benefit us for a limited amount of time. This stems from how we prioritize the things in our life and how much value and emphasis is placed on the things that matter most to us at that time.  

Sports play a major role in today’s society, as it provides year-round entertainment, allowing us to be fascinated whenever we want. Sporting events are provided to us in many outlets, such as social media, television, newspapers, and as spectators of live events. Since these events are readily at our disposal, we tend to abuse our privilege to access these events. As sports increasingly grasp our time and attention, the areas in our life that deserve the most attention begin to take a secondary role. In essence, sports can become our idols.

Viewing sports as a necessity is the initial step in giving it a place of power. Sports become the experience we resort to whenever we need entertainment. There is nothing inherently wrong with this unless we begin to value sports over everything else in our lives; at that moment we should rethink our priorities. When we feel obligated to watch sports, we overlook and neglect family responsibility, spiritual disciplines, and communal obligations. Sadness and anxiety over a few missed games is a sign that we have categorized sports as one of life’s essentials, rather than a nonessential hobby. Then, we begin to place our hope in sports and lean on this form of leisure, when it can never truly satisfy us. Whenever we abuse this privilege, and overuse it, sports become an idol.

What is Idolatry?

Idolatry is the worship of anything (other than God) that occupies your time, thoughts, actions, and resources for a substantial period of time. The Bible describes people committing idolatry in Romans. The Scripture reads, 

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Romans 1:21-23

This text describes a people who knew God, but turned from Him, refused his teachings, and began to worship their earthly desires. The Bible describes idolatry as turning away from God and replacing Him with something or someone else.

In the same way, we can find ourselves putting sports on a high pedestal. As an athlete, I know it is a major struggle to keep sports in its proper place, considering it is such an important part of our lives. Sports practically construct our schedules and order our routines through the obligation to our teams. For some, sports provide a means for living and a major source of income. Therefore, it is easy to slip into this posture of praise towards their respective sport. There are strides we can take to ensure we are responsible about keeping sports in their proper place.

When we worship the creation instead of the creator we position ourselves for disappointment. God blessed us with ideas to create things on this earth for our enjoyment. He did not bless us with these ideas for them to be abused and placed over Him. 

How Do We Know We are Putting Too Much Value in Sports?

The best indicator that reveals whether we are placing too much value in sports is our actions.  Our actions will reflect our heart and the things we value the most. Whenever we start subconsciously placing sports over our common responsibilities we are in error. We should never give sports such authority to consistently be placed over things that lead to holistic progress in life. Neither should we place sports over the fellowship of people in our own community. Please do not misconstrue what I am saying; yes, sports are a job for some and just a hobby for others, but athletes who are employed by sports should not place their identity in their particular sport because unfortunately, one day it will come to an end.

How Should We View Sports?

While it can be fairly easy to idolize sports, there are examples of people who balance sports and their spiritual lives effectively. Athletes such as Jeremy Towns and Demario Davis openly rejoice in the Lord on the big stage. Both athletes are members of the National Football League and publicly praise God through their storms and after their success.

For me, I struggle just as much as any athlete when it comes to putting too much emphasis on my sport. There are multiple strides I take to ensure my love for sports does not outgrow my love for Christ. One verse that I look to when measuring how I am viewing other objects in my life is Exodus 20:3. This verse reads, “You shall have no other Gods before me.” This verse is cut and dry when it comes to how we should view anything that does not pertain to Christ; simply put, we should not put anything above or before God. The big point this verse illustrates to us is that anything, if you give it enough attention, has the potential to be an idol. No matter how small you think something is, whether it is a sport, idea, occupation, or even a person, it can be an idol. One of my favorite verses I tend to remind myself of comes from Colossians:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
-Colossians 3:23-24

These verses help me stay focused on my ultimate “why” and my overall reason for anything I do in life. This verse tells me that every touchdown I score and every accolade I might receive is for Christ. He gets every ounce of glory for my accomplishments. I consciously realize that God is the reason I am in the position I am in, and I must work hard to glorify him through my sport. I feel the place God put me in should be primarily used for his glory. He should be the priority in all aspects of our lives. If we have the right intentions towards the things in which we participate, we will not have to worry about those things dethroning the King of Kings in our life.

Why Read the Old Testament?

I love to rewatch movies. There is just something sweet and restful about knowing how a movie will end. When you know the movie will end, you can sit there and enjoy the story without worrying or wondering what will happen. I have many movies that I love, but one of my go-to movies is You’ve Got Mail. That movie is just sweet every time. I remember the very first time I watched that movie, and still every time I watch it, I am swept up in the story. 

Will Joe and Kathleen be able to overcome their business feud? Will they get together in the end? It is captivating every time. However, I also love rewatching it because I know how it will end. I know that in the end they will meet in the park and Brinkley, Joe’s dog, will come running to meet Kathleen and she will start to cry because she wanted it to be Joe so badly. 

Now that I have seen it once, when I sit down to watch it I can rest knowing how it will end. I still get swept up in the story, but my worry level is way down because I know the ending. But, if I only rewatched the last ten minutes of the movie, I would soon become numb to it. The ending would start to become less and less beautiful to me because I would forget the build up. The buildup makes the ending that much sweeter. I do injustice to the movie when I only watch the ending. It was never intended to be watched that way. 

Only Reading the End of the Bible

I think we do the same thing with the Bible. There seems to be this epidemic going around where people only read the New Testament. This seems to be a significant shift in evangelical tradition where the Old Testament has been seen as less important, and much less necessary for the Christian walk. To be sure, the story of Jesus’s life is the center of the story that all Scripture is pointing to, but how will we ever know what it means that Jesus is the center if we have not read anything that comes before that?

Jay Sklar, an Old Testament scholar, tells a fascinating story about people who were interviewed after seeing Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ. Many said that they liked the film, but that they felt that the film did not have much of a plot. These people are spot on. If nothing came before that displayed the need and anticipation of Christ’s death, then He is just a random guy who died a criminal’s death. Christ’s death has little plot if there is nothing that precedes it. 

If we really believe 2 Timothy 3:16 that says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” then we will take the Old Testament much more seriously. Because I want to avoid numbing myself to the beauty of my favorite movies, I don’t watch the end over and over again. We must not do that with Scripture either. 

However, I am not unaware of the struggles people have with the Old Testament; I’ve gone through them myself. But, I think it is essential to examine the reasons we tend to shy away from the Old Testament. 

I Don’t Understand

Many people say that they don’t read the Old Testament because it is difficult to understand. This is a fair argument to be sure. Entering into books like Leviticus or Zechariah and trying to interpret both what they are saying and the significance of the book as a whole is difficult. There is nothing wrong with starting with the New Testament because it feels more comprehensible and straightforward. 

However, I believe the New Testament will become so much more rich and robust to you if you understand the Old Testament. There are many aspects of Scripture that are difficult to understand that are worth understanding. If you are in this boat, I would encourage you to find resources, or ask someone you trust to help you walk through the Old Testament. If a movie is not understandable at the beginning, it won’t be understandable if you skip to the end.

It Isn’t Applicable

The argument that the Old Testament has no application to our lives is an interesting one. I understand it. How do the genealogies in 1 Chronicles affect how I live my life today? Should I go and offer a grain offering like Leviticus commands? These, again, are fair points to be sure. To think about this, let’s think about the life of Jesus himself. 

When Jesus is tempted in the desert, he uses Scripture to back it up. When Satan tempts Jesus to turn stone into bread after fasting for forty days, Jesus meets that temptation with Scripture. He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 which says, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” When Satan promises to give Jesus authority if he worships Satan, Jesus brings up both Deuteronomy 6:13 and 1 Samuel 7:3 by saying, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” 

Satan’s third attempt at temptation is intriguing because Satan throws Scripture back in Jesus’s face! Satan says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and ‘On their hands they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone.” As readers we think, “Oh man, how is Jesus going to come back after that? Satan just used Jesus’s own defense weapon against him!” Jesus, without missing a beat, responds to Satan and quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 and says, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 

Then Satan departs from him. This is important for us. Jesus not only knew enough Scripture to combat Satan’s lies, he also knew an incredibly important truth: Scripture interprets Scripture. Satan’s misuse of the Word of God did not cause Jesus to stumble because he knew it well enough to know when it is being taken out of context, and knew other passages to combat a misuse of Scripture. We must be well acquainted with the Bible, not only to combat lies, but the misuse of the true Word of God. 

Remember, Jesus only had the Old Testament at this point. For Jesus, the Old Testament was what he clung to in times of hardship and temptation. And of course he would, the Old Testament shows us again and again that God is faithful in times of need, that he is a promise keeping God. Knowing who God is changes everything about how we live our lives today. Jesus models that to us. The Old Testament is a window into the heart of God. Yet when is the last time we have gone to books like Deuteronomy in times of trouble and temptation. Let us model after Jesus, who was deeply knowledgeable of the Old Testament and was ready to use it when he needed to combat lies with truth. 

Jesus Didn’t Say It 

The idea that any word in the Bible that is not said by Jesus is not worth hearing or following is one that stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of Jesus and of Scripture. I remember I was once with some of my friends and someone jokingly said, “All I need is the red letters of the Bible,” to which my friend sarcastically responded, “Yes because those are the ones that are Jesus’s words.” I remember being completely stunned as I witnessed this encounter. 

We are so quick to take Jesus’s words with more weight and gravity. I do not mean here to devalue the words of Christ. We should take it incredibly seriously that God came down as a man and had important things to say to us. The gravity of this should overwhelm us and bring us to incredible gratitude. 

Since before the creation of the world, the Father has been loving His Son through His Spirit. They are eternally united. The Bible is breathed out by God. Our whole Bible should be in red ink because Jesus is not separate from the Old Testament. It all points to Him, and He was there as it was being written. Every word of the Bible is a word from Christ. 

The Old Testament Show Us the Character of God

The Old Testament gives us an incredibly robust picture of the character of God. It is indispensable. The Levitical laws show us what God values. The laws give us a window into the heart of the lawgiver. Deuteronomy shows us that God’s covenant faithfulness should lead to obedience. Judges shows us that we are in desperate need of a Perfect Rescuer. 1 and 2 Kings show us that God is faithful to a faithless people, even though they turn from him again and again. Jeremiah shows us that God is faithful to deliver judgement but that he will not make full end of His people because he keeps His promises. It shows us, in the words of Charles Spurgeon, that, 

History shows that whenever God uses a rod to chasten His servants, He always breaks it afterwards, as if he loathed the rod which gave His children pain.

God is consistent in his punishments and in his faithfulness to His people. The book of Psalms shows us what it looks like to cry out to God in our pain and in our rejoicing. Ecclesiastes calls us to be honest about the bleakness of living in a fallen world, and yet that there is nothing better to do but enjoy the gifts from God that we do have now. Ezekiel shows us that God delivers judgements in order to help us know that He is the Lord. Hosea shows us that God is faithful to his faithless bride. The list goes on and on. 

We need this knowledge of God because just like his people Israel, we are God’s faithless bride. I remember reading Psalm 119 the same time I was reading 1 Kings. Psalm 119:140 seemed to jump off the page: “Your promise is well tried, your servant loves it.” After seeing all of the ways that God’s people had run so far from Him and not walked in His ways, reading this brought me to tears. Realizing that after centuries of God being faithful to His faithless people, that He will be faithful to me too, who is just as faithless and untrusting as the Israelites. 

The Old Testament is applicable to our lives because God is an unchanging God. If we learn something new about God in Genesis, we have learned something about God that is still true to this day. And we need to know about God because God is the creator and sustainer of all things. And He is the ruler of our lives. Don’t you want to know about your ruler? 

What He values and what He is like? Knowing more about this changes everything about how we live. What could be more applicable than knowing more about the maker and keeper of life? And knowing that if He has been faithful for centuries and centuries to a people that fails Him often, then He will be faithful to us as well. 

The Old Testament Matters

We must let the Old Testament awaken our hearts to the beauty of what Jesus has accomplished. Yes, it can be tedious and difficult to understand, but the biblical story, the story of Jesus, is nothing without it. The Old Testament shows us more of who God is, more of His unfailing loving and faithfulness. That is worth reading.

Does God Desire All to Be Saved? A Review

This is a book review on John Piper’s Does God Desire All to Be Saved?

Nearly three years ago, I was sitting on the floor of my small group leader’s spare bedroom with a dozen high school students when we came upon 1 Timothy 2:4. In his pastoral words to Timothy, Paul writes,

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
-1 Timothy 2:3-4

As we thought through what this verse might mean, and what the contextual clues in this passage and throughout Scripture had to say about it, we concluded that though God desires all people to be saved, not all people are saved. 

What is keeping God from saving all people?

Thankfully, in light of the contextual clues throughout Scripture, the wisdom of our small group leader, and the teaching we had received growing up, we avoided the heresy of universalism. After quickly dismissing the idea that God saved all people despite their faith, we were stumped. How could God desire for all people to be saved, yet all people not be saved? What hindered God from accomplishing his will? These questions were well over our heads.

Our small group leader explained that he believed God was even more committed to giving us self-determination or free will than he was to saving all people. Essentially, God loves us too much to force a decision upon us, therefore, leaving it up to our choice whether we would respond in faith.

This was problematic to me for several reasons. First, the Scripture shows examples of people like Paul who came to faith as a result of God’s regenerative work in bringing them to new life and faith in Christ’s work. Second, the Scripture seemed to present a greater will of God than to merely give us our own choice.

Conveniently, there are men far wiser than I who have asked these same questions and searched the totality of the Scripture for them. One of those men is John Piper. In Piper’s 2013 short theological essay, Does God Desire All to Be Saved?, the seasoned pastor-theologian asks the same question we asked that night.

The Aim of the Essay

If you’re going to read this essay, you should know that Piper comes in with a few presuppositions. First, Piper assumes that Scripture is inspired by God and does not contradict itself. Second, he presumes that God is sovereign over everything. 

To be clear, both of these presuppositions are orthodox positions, but it is important to remember that Piper’s aim in writing this essay is not to defend these truths, but rather, assuming that they are true. 

To show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God’s will for all people to be saved and his will to choose some people for salvation unconditionally before creation is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion.

By saying this, Piper introduces the idea that God has two wills: a sovereign will and a moral will.

Where This Book Excelled

Generally speaking, this essay was fantastic. In a mere 54 pages, Piper lays out his argument clearly, carefully, and pastorally. There were a few areas where I felt like this book particularly shined.

Built on Scripture

Throughout the essay, Piper builds his assertions not on ever-changing logic or deduction, but on the Scriptures. He immediately points out the seemingly problematic nature of a text like 1 Timothy 2:4, but rather than dismissing it as a misunderstanding, he engages it. 

Though Piper notes that “it is possible that a careful interpretation of [this verse] would lead us to believe that [this] does not refer to every individual person, but rather to all types of people,” he puts that interpretation to the side for the sake of understanding the reality that Scripture teaches God desires for all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:8-9, Ezekiel 18:23, and Matthew 23:37).

Relied on History

While the crux of the argument made in this book is made on the basis of thorough examination of the Biblical text, Piper consistently relies upon the insights of faithful Christians of the past. He frequently points the readers back to authors like John Gill, Adolf Schlatter, Heinrich Heppe, Jonathan Edwards, Theodore Beza, Stephen Charnock, Robert Dabney, and John Calvin. For an idea that initially seems rather novel, Piper does well to point to the men of the past in order to strengthen his case.

Engaged with Opponents

As Piper develops his explanation, he simultaneously interacts with the position of his opponents. In a conversation where both camps claim their position is built on the Bible and relies on history, one of the most revealing aspects of the author’s side is the way that he engages opponents’ own text.

Throughout the essay, Piper walks through the ideas presented in A Case for Arminianism by Clark Pinnock and a number of other contributors. For example, he fundamentally changes the way that we answer the question when he references the words of the late I. Howard Marshall. In the section entitled, “Universal Grace and Atonement in the Pastoral Epistles,” Marshall writes, 

We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and both of these things can be spoken of as God’s will.

Identifying the Epicenter

Piper rightly identifies the points of unity and the grounds of debate when he writes, 

Both the Reformed and the Arminians affirm two wills in God when they ponder over 1 Timothy 2:4. Both can say that God wills for all to be saved. And when queried why all are not saved, both the Reformed and Arminians answer the same: because God is committed to something even more valuable than saving all. The difference between the Reformed and the Arminians lies not in whether there are two wills in God, but in what they say this higher commitment is.

This is crucial because initially it seems like Reformed theologians are forced to perform exegetical gymnastics in order to conclude that there are two wills in God, but Piper is arguing that both sides actually come to the same initial conclusion. 

Where This Book Fell Short

At this point, I have spent ample time explaining the areas in which this essay surpassed my expectations. While this work was incredibly well-written and thought-provoking, a few areas missed the mark.

Overly Reliant on Previous Works

To be honest, if I had not read his other works, Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ and Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace, much of the assertions made in this book would seem insufficiently explained. Piper relies heavily upon the conclusions of these two books in order to lay the groundwork for the theological ideas presented here.

Lack of Practical Application

Near the end of this essay, Piper notes that Randall G. Basinger argued that “belief in the absolute sovereignty of God is practically irrelevant in daily life.” Piper shows the irony of this statement in light of James 4:13-15, but falls short of giving useful application. The inclusion of actual examples in the Christian life such as evangelism, work, or marriage, would elevate the weight of this essay’s argument.

Who Should Read This Book?

This is not simply a book for the theology nerds, but rather a pastoral call to understand the seemingly paradoxical relationship within the will of God. This is a book for pastors, teachers, business men and women, stay-at-home parents, and even college students. While Piper does not explicitly state how this will affect the Christian life, I believe that by reading it you will not only grow in your knowledge of the Lord, but your love as well.

This topic is dense, but Piper guides the reader through these deep waters. If your aim in reading this book is mere intellectual satisfaction, you’re missing the point. You should read this book in order to grow in your understanding of who God is and, therefore, worship Him for it.

How Do I Fight Sin?

The reality is that most of you reading this article know the gospel. And I bet many of you have already responded to the gospel by repenting of your sins and putting your faith in the blood of Christ and the regenerate power of the Spirit as your sole source of righteousness. Although I discussed in my previous article the nature of sin and mankind’s relationship to it from primarily the perspective of a nonbeliever, the question is now: how does this change once a believer is truly “born again?”

The Relationship Between Sin and the Christian

First and foremost, we ought to hate sin more than we hate anything else in this world (Romans 12:9). Our hearts should break over the way that it affects this world, others, and most importantly, our relationship with our Creator. Our minds must be renewed to see reality the way that God sees it, and God felt the need to crucify Himself on a cross so that sin would no longer have to exist for the rest of eternity. Therefore sin, especially our own, must be abhorred.

Secondly, we ought to resist our sin and fight against it. The Bible makes it very clear that though we are saved by grace through faith alone, a faith that works is a faith that is both alive and real (James 2:26). This is a faith that works from salvation not for salvation, differentiating it from a works-based faith. To look at this from a different angle, we can’t merely passively regret the things we are supposed to abhor (Romans 2:4). We must actively fight them with everything we have. Scripture talks about this as it consistently takes the believer’s response to sin very seriously.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
-Hebrews 10:26-27

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
-Romans 6:1-4

But How Do I Fight Sin?

You’re probably thinking that fighting sin seems to be a hopeless battle. And to some degree, you’re not wrong. Attempting to fight our sinful nature with a willpower that is tainted in the same sinful devices that got us into this mess in the first place does indeed seem remarkably unhelpful. However, I’m here to offer another way, and I’m going to do this by pulling from a sermon on Ezekiel 36-37 by my favorite pastor, David Platt, and by paraphrasing many quotes from a book by David Bowden called Rewire Your Heart. For the sake of space and clarity, I am going to be very blunt.

We sin because we want to sin (Romans 3:10-18). That is the real issue. We fight sin because we know it’s bad, but deep down, we still want to do it. Our hearts crave it. Therefore, we choose modification instead of transformation. We attack the symptoms while ignoring the underlying disease. We prohibit our ability to do something without changing our desire to do it. We treat sin as if it’s merely an action instead of a condition. As David Platt puts it:

It’s like we created the idea today that a Christian is someone who loves the ways of this world but finds out that the ways of this world lead to eternity separated from God in hell, so we pray a prayer, say some words, go through some ritual, to jump out of the line going to hell and into the line going to heaven. But deep down inside, we still prefer the ways of this world.

We sin because our hearts prefer it. The only way to prevent the heart from desiring sin is to give it something it wants to do even more than sin, and it would be especially profitable if we decided to give it the very thing it was designed to love, namely, God Himself. Simply put by David Bowden, “Affections can only be replaced, not cancelled…your desires already have momentum. Why try to stop a careening boulder when a simple course correction will do the trick?” We will seek sin less when we desire God more. The sanctification process is not about altering your actions; it’s about the Spirit forming new and holy desires within your heart (Romans 8:5-8).

For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
-Ezekiel 36:24-28

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

-Psalm 16:11

Before I move on to answer the inevitable follow-up question “But what can I actually do?,” I want to conclude with one more quote by Bowden that should inform the way we read the more practical steps I am about to offer.

Remember that this is not a passive battle where you “let go and let God.” This is an active battle where you constantly and with tears in your eyes throw yourself on the mercy of God.

What Can I Do?

Acknowledge the evil of your sin

Stop making excuses. Stop justifying it. Learn to hate your sin. See it for what it truly is and acknowledge your own depravity before God (Psalm 51:1-5).

Pray hard, pray long, and pray often

Pray for the Spirit to go to war against your heart so that you may have a heart that desires the things of God. Recognize your dependence on God (Psalm 51:10-12).

Confess your sins to others

Join or create an accountability group with a group 2-4 other close friends committed to pursuing the ways of God. Be specific in your confessions (James 5:16).

Remove access

The very first of Luther’s 95 Theses was “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Flee temptations daily. Cut off access to temptation. Go to war against your flesh knowing that it will inevitably cost you something. Some things must be given up. Stay in constant contact with your accountability group during times where temptation could be more prevalent (Proverbs 5:7-8, Matthew 5:29-30).

Run towards the things that increase your affection for God

Spend extended amounts of time in prayer. Spend extended amounts of time reading God’s Word. Go to church every Sunday. And don’t do these things for some sort of magical incantation of protection around you now that you’ve checked the spiritual boxes for the day. Attending a service won’t change your heart. Do it for an increased love for God, for holiness, and for the gospel, because this actually will (James 4:7-10).

Final Encouragements

To wrap up, I would like to offer two pieces of encouragement I was given a few years ago that I have found very helpful in my personal war against sin.

First, returning to God’s ways after committing sin is not hypocritical. The sin itself is what is hypocritical. If you are in Christ, He has made you into a new creation. Therefore, what now defines you is a life of righteousness and not a life of sin. The sin is hypocrisy. Returning to God’s ways is simply returning to who you now are in Christ.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
-Psalm 103:1-5

Finally, I used to believe that one day I would be so sanctified and spiritual that I wouldn’t need to pray every morning to defeat temptation. However,this is the farthest thing from the truth. Christian maturity has a direct relationship with dependence on God. The more sanctified you are, the more you recognize that you need to pray for strength every morning. And then, what started off as a need for prayer in the mornings will turn into a need for the Scriptures every morning too. Then, a need for God in the mornings will turn into a need for God in the afternoons, which will soon turn into a need for God within every moment of every day. And finally, slowly but surely, this need for the things of God evolves, without you even realizing, into a desire for the things of God. And this desire is one that will be satisfied in full on the day of the return of our Lord Jesus. What a beautiful day that will be.

The Wrath of God

Have you ever heard your pastor preach on the wrath of God? In many churches it seems as if preaching on such a topic is a thing of the past. Kevin DeYoung gives an example of the stuff you will even hear from some church goers: “We’re past that fire-and-brimstone, puritanical stuff. The God I believe in is a God of love.” John MacArthur writes that “God’s wrath is almost entirely missing from modern presentations of the Gospel. It is not fashionable to speak of God’s wrath against sin or to tell people they should fear God.” 

We feel as if it hurts our witness to preach God’s justice and wrath; so, we choose to preach only on God’s mercy and love. But, as DeYoung phrases it, when “we minimize God’s justice, we do not exalt His mercy, we undermine it.” The oncologist is pained to tell his patient of a brain tumor. He does not enjoy this duty, but imagine the inhumane (easier) alternative. MacArthur asserts that such compromise “does not enhance evangelism; it undermines it.” Our willingness to neglect the doctrines of hell and holy wrath is ultimately not loving, it is a willingness to water down the Gospel, and it is out of line with Scripture.

Scripture’s Insistence Upon God’s Wrath

The biblical presentation of the Gospel includes mention of the wrath of God. The Bible could not be more clear about God’s wrath. It mentions it around 470 times. The adage that God “hates the sin but not the sinner” is simply not true for unbelievers. The Bible states that God hates not just sin, but also unconverted sinners (Ps.5:5). 

After Paul’s thesis in Romans (1:16-17), his first premise includes the wrath of God: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). Paul cannot be accused of being unloving towards his audience, he testifies before God with utmost sincerity that he was willing to even suffer the wrath of God on their behalf (Romans 9:1-5)! 

Christ spoke more about the wrath of God and the judgement of God than anyone else in Scripture. He warned, “my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5). Ryan Denton writes that, “Hell reveals that God is a sin-avenging judge, not the apathetic grandpa of contemporary evangelicalism. Jesus used the most horrid descriptions imaginable when it came to Hell. Language fails to describe what omnipotent wrath will accomplish against the sinner in hell, yet we must do our best to communicate its realities” 

This being said, we must remember to be careful not to blasphemously think of God as cruel or evil in any way. This doctrine ought to lead us to worship our God in seriousness and wonder. Beeke writes that “God’s wrath does not reveal any evil in his being, but his zealous love for justice. There was no divine wrath toward creation in its pristine purity. Only after the fall did God bar the entrance to paradise with the ‘flaming sword of his anger (Gen. 3:24).” 

The Eternal Damnation of the Reprobate

We must take it to heart that there are millions of souls who will be tormented under God’s wrath for all eternity (Is.33:14, Mt.25:46, Lk.16:19-31, 2Thes.1:8-9, Rev.14:10-15). Jonathan Edwards solemnly warned: 

Do but consider what it is to suffer extreme torment forever and ever; to suffer it day and night, from one day to another, from one year to another, from one age to another, and so adding age to age and thousands and thousands, in pain, in wailing and lamenting, groaning and shrieking and gnashing your teeth; with your souls full of dreadful grief and amazement, with your bodies and every member full of racking torture, without any possibility of getting ease; without any possibility of moving God to pity by your cries; without any possibility of obtaining any manner of mitigation or help or change for the better any way, without any possibility of hiding yourselves from God.

It truly is a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Currently we go about our short lives in the midst of countless souls, blind to this reality. There are many around us who are “at rest when they are thus hanging over eternal burnings, at the same time having no lease on their lives and not knowing how soon the thread by which they hang will break, nor do they pretend to know. And if it breaks they are gone; they are lost forever, and there is no remedy!” We must sound the alarm, for “there is a Savior provided who is able to and who freely offers to save you from the punishment.” Let us plead with souls to “flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7). Let us urge the lost to “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way…”, and tell them the comforting news that “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12). 

Does God’s Wrath Remain on You?

If you have not been born again, I plead with you to consider the wrath of God which currently remains on you. Put all of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Please, friend, “flee and embrace Him who came into the world for the very end of saving sinners… who has paid the whole debt due to the divine law and has exhausted the eternal torments in His temporal sufferings… Therefore, believe in Him, come to Him, commit your souls to Him to be saved by Him. In Him you shall be safe from the eternal torments of hell… Through Him you shall inherit inconceivable blessedness and glory which will be of equal duration with the torments of hell. For, as at the last day the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, so shall the righteous, or those who trust in Christ, go into life eternal.” What is stopping you from turning to Christ? Do not procrastinate, for today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). You are not guaranteed tomorrow. 

We proclaim the wrath of God because we love God and we love sinners. Compromising here hides the full picture of the cross, where Christ was crushed under the full force of God’s wrath on behalf of those who believe in him. The cross was simultaneously the greatest demonstration of the love of God and the greatest demonstration of the wrath of God in all of human history. Christ knew that God’s wrath was to be poured out upon him at Calvary. He pleaded in Gethsemane that the cup of the wrath of God would pass from his hands, (Mt.26:39, Ps.75:8, Jer.25:15-16), yet he still went to the cross and agonized for sinners. 

The Heidelberg Catechism says that we desperately need a Savior “who is truly human and truly righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.” Why did our substitute need to be a righteous human being? Because “God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin; but a sinner could never pay for others.” Why did our substitute need to also be divine? “So that, by the power of His divinity, He might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.” Since Christ did this for me, I am His forever.

Consider the thousands of anxious Christians, struggling to believe they are loved by God. If only someone would cry out to them that Christ has satisfied the fullness of the wrath of God that they deserve! Consider the loving words of God to His people: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2). ALL of her sins have been dealt with, for “it was the will of the LORD to crush him” (that is, the Christ), in her place (Isaiah 53:10). To know that Christ has done this for you is to never doubt God’s love for you.

Further Application of the Doctrine

Rightly understanding the wrath of God helps us to endure suffering. Not even the worst we will endure is comparable with the past suffering of Christ, the present suffering that we deserve, or the glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Now, lamenting in times of great pain is a godly thing. Christians are not called to pretend that our problems and our suffering do not exist. We are given the incredible privilege to lament our suffering before God. But honestly, we sometimes resentfully feel like we are entitled to better treatment from God. But the only thing we are entitled to is God’s wrath, which Christ took for us. When we exchange entitlement for gratitude, then we are freed to live more joyfully. Therefore, in the midst of all of the current suffering our nation is enduring, our nonbelieving neighbors ought to be astonished at the songs of praise being lifted up from Christian homes.

Rightly understanding the wrath of God will free you from grumbling about your spouse. Behind such grumbling “is the pride that says, ‘I have the right to a certain kind of spouse or to a certain amount of sexual pleasure and gratification.’ You have no right to anything except judgement for your sins.” Beekes goes on to say that “when you see that you are a hell-deserving sinner, surely you must also admit, ‘I am receiving better than what I deserve.’ And if you have a believer for a mate, no matter how imperfect, you have cause to bless God every day.”

Rightly understanding the wrath of God will help to liberate you from the lust for revenge. Paul writes, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). Knowing this can also help us not to be envious towards the wicked around us. Beeke writes that “Knowing that God will punish the wicked with sudden and total destruction, we no longer envy their attainments or resent their prosperity (Deut 32:35; Ps. 73:18).” Instead of envious hearts towards them, let us put on hearts of pity and broken-hearted love that lead us to evangelism and acts of kindness.

As Beeke also mentions, rightly understanding the wrath of God will also help us to mortify our sin. In a sense, we should “learn to imitate his wrath precisely because we imitate his love.” As Paul says, we need to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit, (Romans 8:12). We need to have wrath against our sin and detest it.

And finally, as believers in the wrath of God, we can be comforted, for we know that God is not turning a blind eye to all of the abominable injustices which plague our land, but hates injustice far more than we will ever hate it, and we can have additional assurance of the fact that He will make all things right.