Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Love of a Holy God

“Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” Jeremiah 23:16-17

Jeremiah strikes fear--and probably the healthy kind--into my heart. This book is full of descriptions of Israel that can so easily apply to the condition of our culture in the United States, especially the Christian subset.

Today, I think we have a better grasp than ever on the concept that God is love. He doesn’t just love us-- He is the very embodiment, the definition of love. Love is integral to everything that He does. This, in itself, is wonderful.

But goodness, I think we may have taken it too far.

We’ve applied our modern concept of love to who God is, and it just doesn’t make the cut.

God is Holy.

God isn’t just uncomfortable with sin, but accepting of it anyway. God isn’t just embracing everyone’s choices as their own to make and perfect in themselves.

God hates sin.

He despises rebellion against Him and the order He created.

He loves us, but a love for the sinner and a hate for the sin are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go hand in hand. You would hate the drugs that destroyed your friend’s life, you would hate the drinking that caused the wreck that took the life of a loved one.

God hates sin. He hates the thing that mars the glory rightly His. He hates the thing that tears apart the creation he so dearly loves.

So why, why, why do we insist on embracing it?

Like the prophets in Jeremiah, we like to say what people want to hear. I know I’m guilty of it, at least. I want my friends to love God. I want them to see God’s love for them. I want them to be able to move past guilt and shame and bask in the loving, open arms God has for them. I want them to know He calls them as they are, broken and sinful, to find redemption in Him.

I believe these are Biblical concepts.

I don’t want them to feel like they need to fix themselves before they come to God, because it’s that very train of thought that ensnares me so often.

But, in an effort to effectively communicate this, I-- and many other Christians-- overcompensate. Instead of preaching a love that offers an opportunity to turn from sin and allow God to radically change our lives, we preach a “love” that says we can have peace without a change of heart, that God isn’t angry with us (AKA: God accepts our sin), and that we are fine just the way we are.

We aren’t fine.

In the words of Dr. George Calhoun: God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way.” [source]

God offers His contentment and peace and love to everyone. But truly accepting that means seeing our sin, seeing our brokenness, and handing that to God. Repentance is laying ourselves at God’s feet, acknowledging that we are helplessly sinful, and agreeing with him that our sin, which separates us from Him and from the benefits of His love, is ugly.

And we submit ourselves to God.

That is when peace begins, and that peace continues as God begins to wreck our lives and rebuild them into something truly beautiful.

So please, let’s stop telling each other that God’s love means we’re okay in our sin. Let’s stop jumping to tell each other we have peace with God-- and start encouraging each other in the peace that comes from submission. Let’s share the love of a God who wants to bring us out of our sin and carry us onward. Let’s share the love of a God who wants us to be in fellowship with him, who is willing to take us as we are-- but not willing to leave us as we are.

"Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God....truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel." Jer. 3:22