The Kindness and Severity of God

“Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness” Romans 11:22

"The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low.”
Dallas Willard 

I am in danger of being misunderstood with this post, but for some time this word has weighed heavy on my heart. I believe the church needs to embrace the whole counsel of God like never before. There may have been abuse in the past on some of the tougher doctrines but reaction to error only ever creates more error. We need the message of the kindness of God and the wrath of God coming from our pulpits and so back in the market place. 

The bible is clear that it is both the kindness of God and the fear of God that leads people to repentance (Jude 1:23). Incidentally, I came to Jesus through the fear of a hell and judgement that I rightly deserved. I knew I was guilty. And thank God a faithful Christian confirmed what my (Holy Spirit) convicted conscience was already telling me. For some the message of God's love and grace is what catalyses their turn around, for others it is the sense of impending and just condemnation.

Christians say to me endlessly, "Dom, preach the love of God...make sure people know God loves them..." Absolutely. But far more than that, I am commissioned by God and indebted to the heathen (Rom 1:14)  to preach the whole counsel of God, the full gospel, lest the blood of the lost be on my hands (Acts 20:26-27). God forbid I feed people Santa Clause or Scrooge! They must hear Jesus Christ, Him crucified and raised from the dead with a very real Judgement Day coming our way. A Day which we will all be at. Mercy has triumphed in the cross of Christ, and we can all receive that mercy whilst we still have breath in our lungs, but righteous judgement and wrath is coming.

Recently there has been much talk of "saints in the hands of a happy God." Perhaps this owes to an overemphasis on Jonathan Edward's famously powerful revival message. I love the truth of God the Father's proud pleasure in the saints. I feel His love, kindness, joy and bask in the gladness of  His Spirit daily. But it doesn't change the truth that sinners will be in the hands of a terrifying, "angry God" if they don't repent. And it's the believer's duty to warn people, whatever the cost, whether they like us or the message or not, whether it tickles their ears or appeases their lifestyles, whether they're attracted to the church or not. Truth is independent of man's feelings, independent of church  growth stats or any cultural trend, "He changes not", and truth often offends before it sets free. We will not be judged by God on how successful we were but on how faithful we were. (Matt 25:21)

This whole, "you are putting people off God" thing I hear from Christians is irresponsible and immature. More like we are fashioning a god in our image. We need to return to the biblical God, the holy God, who is quite able to cope with our evangelistic inadequacies and the heard hearts of rebellious sinners, especially when our heart is to love and save the lost and remain faithful to His word, the scriptures. And we need a lower, more humble sense of self and our power to convert a single soul - which is zilch. (John 6:65) It is God alone who deals with people's hearts, God alone who convicts, God alone who saves.

Jesus said this: “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt 10)

Paul adds, "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." Think of that for a moment, the "terror of the Lord". Heaven and earth will flee from His face at the Great White Throne of judgement. The writer of Hebrews continues, "It's a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." God so loved us in Christ crucified while we were/are yet sinners (Rom 5:8,John 3:16) and Jesus still lovingly draws near to the sinful and broken, the Father desires all to repent and to come to the knowledge of the truth (He waits on the porch with the ring and the robe, Luke 15), but the wrath of God nevertheless abides on the unbeliever (John 3:36), period. There is tension in scripture and mystery, "otherness", in this holy God which we must honour.

It is unbiblical, largely man-pleasing, (comfort-craving) selfishness and hatred of the lost to dilute the gospel and help people to feel okay about themselves apart from repentance and faith in Christ. I have been guilty of this many times. I have forsaken the fear God for the idol of man's approval. For the love of Christ and His lost, we need both the kindness and the severity of God back in our pulpits, back in our pews and all over our streets. 

Perhaps you will pray with me. Lord, create in your church a clean heart, renew a steadfast spirit within us and grant us boldness to preach Your word. In Jesus' precious name, Amen.


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