Following last week’s “Get Real and Die Trying”, I’ve decided that the theme for this month’s posts will be “Uncomfortable.” My aim is to approach some of the tough realities of Christian faith, ones that might get glossed over in favor of a “feel-good Gospel.” The truth isn’t necessarily marketable, especially in its entirety. But the fact that it cannot be sold is precisely what makes it so valuable.
To set the tone for this month’s theme, I’ve put together a modern adaptation of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners In The Hands of an Angry God.” I highly recommend reading the original text of his sermon, as I have condensed it by a great deal.
It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them. Deuteronomy 32:35
The Israelites – God’s chosen people – were a mess.
God’s grace kept them alive. Literally. He fed them. Without Him they would have starved to death in the wilderness. God was visible and active in providing for them, but they still didn’t get it. “Their foot shall slide in due time,” paints them as perched on the edge of a cliff. A fall isn’t just a possibility: it’s imminent. It’s coming, and the Israelites are powerless to avoid it. They can’t avoid it because the slip is unexpected. They think they are fine, and they won’t appreciate the danger until it is too late. Worse yet, when they fall, it won’t be that anyone shoved them over the edge. Their destruction will be their own doing. Nothing protects them except that their “due time” hasn’t come, a time decided by God Himself. But that “due time” is coming.You and I are not much better off then the Israelites. We stand on the edge, ready to throw ourselves into eternal suffering at the slightest slip, and the only thing holding us back is that God doesn’t want to let go of us just yet. He’s not forced to hold us, there is no law ordering Him to protect us from ourselves. He simply does it because He wants to. But our “due time” is coming, too.
Consider this: Does God lack the power to destroy those who are at odds with Him? Hardly. What does our sin make us but enemies of God? If He were to release His vengeance on us we coud do nothing to save ourselves. We have no defense against Him, whatever He might choose to do, and only the power enough to destroy us can be the power enough to save us.
And what other fate could there be for the enemies of a just God? There is no question of whether or not we deserve our own destruction. In Luke 13:7, the gardener was told, “I’ve been looking for fruit on this tree for years and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it keep using up the soil?” As sinners our lives are fruitless trees, and we deserve the axe of justice that is poised to cut us down. God alone holds it back.
More than being deserving, we are already convicted of our crimes. The verdict has already been declared, and we are guilty. God laid out His law for us. He set the standard for righteousness, and we broke it. We have been given an eternal sentence, one that is completely befitting our crimes. But our sentence has not yet been carried out.
We’re momentarily spared, but not because God is not angry with us. Our prideful rebellion ignites His anger, and rightfully so. If He ignored our crimes, if He didn’t care that we had trespassed, our situation would not be so precarious. But He is fully aware of our sin, and our punishment is already prepared for us. All that remains is for Him to loose His grip on us, and let us be swallowed up by our damnation. But He does not.
Even without the looming punishment, our sin is enough to ruin us. Our willful disobedience and arrogance is the fuel for hell-fires inside of us, burning us alive. If not for God Himself declaring “This far you shall come, and no farther!”, our selfish nature would consume us from the inside out. Our corruption knows no limits, yet God even chooses to restrain us from killing our eternal selves.
We choose not to see the reality of our treacherous position, but that doesn’t make us any safer. Our danger is invisible; we cannot see eternity, so we cannot see that we are perched on the edge of it. It doesn’t take a miracle to allow a corrupt soul to perish, nor would it undermine God’s supreme goodness if it happened. The ways to leave our earthly existence are too many to count, yet God holds them all securely in His hands. They are totally at His command.
We tend to think we can make our own plans, that somehow we are wise enough to escape our fate. We think the things we have done, are doing now, or plan to do in the future give us some leverage over our eternity. We don’t think we will serve our sentence; we believe we can beat the system if we try hard enough. But we’re fooling ourselves. There is no escape, and all of our contrived wisdom is morbidly insufficient. Death will inevitably outsmart us, and we cannot spare ourselves.
God is under no obligation to continue to hang onto us. He has not promised us eternal life, nor has He promised to keep us from eternal suffering. That is, He has made no promises outside of those given in Christ. But as the rebellious, prideful, and self-centered sinners we are, we shun the promises given in Christ. We choose not to believe in God’s evident grace that is already sustaining us. We are only interested in what we can do for ourselves, and any other means of salvation beyond self-salvation offends us to our very core. We cross our arms and turn up our noses in flagrant refusal of the Father’s saving gift, all the while only the arbitrary, unwarranted patience of a furious God keeps us alive.
If we are without Christ we remain dangling over the abyss. Our guilt is a lead weight hung around our neck that would have us plummet downward if not for God holding us up. Our sin makes us contrary to creation itself, and it groans under our influence. The sun doesn’t willingly shine on us so that we have a light to sin by, the ground doesn’t willingly give us food to satisfy our lust, the air doesn’t willingly give us breath so that we can continue to live in opposition to God. The world itself would spit us out, if not for the hope that God has provided by His own hand.
And so all of us that have never been changed by the Spirit of God working in our souls, that have never been resurrected and made new, and that have never experienced the new life in Christ, we are in the hands of an angry God. No matter how nicely we live our lives, no matter how often we go to church, and no matter how religious we may be, all that keeps us from utter annihilation is the mere pleasure of God.
God holds us suspended there, seeing us as the abhorrent beings we are, and He knows we are worthy of nothing else but death. His supreme righteousness does not deserve to have to bear the sight of us, and yet He still does not let us go. There is no other reason why we are not already dead and suffering without hope!
But despite our guilty position, God has provided a way out. Despite everything we’ve done to continuously affront the Creator, He has opened a door for us to escape our sentence. We have only to believe it. Our guilt and pride is too much to measure, but God’s merciful gift is enough to spare us from His wrath. He is calling, we must listen for His voice! We should run from our selfish ways and into the salvation He has provided. The “due time” is coming, in which every tree which does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. He has provided us an escape from His coming wrath. “Haste escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.” (Genesis 19:17)