“I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” Psalm 36:1-2
Has contemporary Gospel messaging become partly responsible for a generation becoming too flattered to detect or hate their own sin? Has the clear message to repent of your sins and be born again turned into a message that invites you to add Jesus to your life, while you continue to pursue all of the same dreams you had in your heart before meeting Jesus? We have traded a high-view of God and a humble perspective of ourselves for a low-view of God and an elevated perspective of ourselves. Somehow this has been touted as a Biblical message, while the clear and consistent testimony of Scripture tells us of the exceeding greatness of God, the sinfulness of mankind, and our desperate need of a Savior. If we are not careful and continue down this slippery slope, we will soon explain away our need for the cross.
The holiness of God
The holiness of God describes his total “otherness.” Everything in creation fits into a category. Even those things we consider to be unique, extremely rare and precious still belong to the category of created. Only God belongs to the category of uncreated. Only God belongs to the category of God. Only God has no beginning and no end. Only God has existed forever in the same immutable, never changing, constant state. No wonder when the living creatures declare the holiness of God in thundering harmonies they subsequently echo “who was, and is, and is to come.” The holiness of God also describes his total and perfect purity, which entails a complete lack of spot, wrinkle or blemish, but also entails the perfection of his attributes, such as justice, mercy, righteousness, and all of his plans in the earth. God is righteousness, justice, love, mercy, kindness, patience, strength, wisdom, and many other attributes personified. The depths of these attributes are such that one million years into eternity you will still be marveling at the depth of his wisdom as if it were the first time any one of his mysteries were opened to you. None of his attributes are ever in conflict. God in his infinite wisdom can exercise any one of his attributes in it’s full strength without suspending another attribute. For example, to demonstrate mercy, God does not defile his own perfect standard for righteousness or fail to exhibit justice. The holiness of God is a topic we could spend all of eternity looking into without ever getting bored, just ask the living creatures. They’ve been staring at God long before we were here and they never take a nap or leave the room. They delight in singing, “holy, holy, holy” day and night. Suffice it to say, our view of the holiness of God is probably much dimmer than the reality of the unapproachable light he dwells in. We often think "how could God make such a big deal of my sin?” We should be thinking “how can a God that holy take an interest in, much less love or invite me into his presence?” A low view of God causes us to ask our questions from the wrong vantage point.
The problem of sin
Allow me to ask you a direct and poignant question: do you believe that you were/are deserving of hell apart from the finished work of Jesus on the cross? Do you believe that God would be fully justified to eternally separate you from himself, if it had not been for Jesus? If we fail to grasp that each of us are individually deserving of wrath, judgment, and separation, we will never fully appreciate the mercy, grace and forgiveness we have received. In the presence of a perfectly holy God, sin is not something to be winked at. It represents a major problem. Sin brought death into creation and marred its victims with twisted appetites. We are one generation into the storyline of humanity and already jealousy has resulted in murder. Before a God perfect in justice, is it possible for this blood to not cry out before his throne, “something must be done!”? Often we sever God’s personality into testaments and many believers are embarrassed by God’s wrath exhibited in the Old Testament. God is not embarrassed. His wrath is an exercise of his justice against the backdrop of his perfectly righteous standard, thereby exhibiting his holiness and bringing himself glory. Multiply the original sin of Adam and Eve by every human who has ever walked the earth by every lie ever told, every belonging ever coveted, every perversion, every ounce of hatred, jealousy, and curse spoken. Imagine every secret sin brought into the light as if pulled up on a surveillance video. The individual and corporate debt of humanity is insurmountable. All of this before the throne of God cries out “something must be done!”
The boast of man
We would think that all of this would have men prostate on their faces crying out “mercy!” Yet though we were scattered at the tower, our hearts have not traveled far from Babel, the place where we long to build a monument to our own perceived human greatness. The secular narrative says, “let’s do it and build it without God.” In the end of the age drama, the nations will rage against the Lord and His anointed trying to throw off what they perceive to be shackles. Instead of recognizing sin as our oppressor, we tend to view God as the one limiting our freedom, autonomy and personal plans. We redefine, excuse and even celebrate sinful behaviors. The rebellious cry out, "Don’t talk to me about my sins!” The blind say, “What sins?” While society questions, “what is sin?” The religious are not much better off. From heaven’s perspective they look like a man trying to vertical jump into outer space from the drive way in front of his house. He gets a solid 24 inches off the ground only to be as quickly pushed back down and put in sobering contact with the hard asphalt beneath him. He tries again and again until he is fully exhausted like a few minutes on a jump rope. It’s not long before he gives up the venture all together. If man could somehow ascend to heaven through his own righteous deeds and strict devotion, he would truly have something to boast about! Yet God would have it that none should boast in his presence.
If you had never heard the Gospel, I promise you would have never imagined the cross as His answer. The cross is God’s answer. The cross satisfies God’s holiness, overcomes the problem of sin and silences the boast of man. At the cross, like the intersecting beams that make up it’s crude structure, the justice and mercy of God are both fully satisfied. God was glorified in pouring out his wrath and God was glorified in pouring out his mercy. The object of his wrath was our sin placed upon His perfect Son. Man boasted as they looked on his naked and marred frame. Yet he would soon silence not only the haughtiness of man, but also the boast of sin, Hell and the grave. By freely receiving the gift of grace for which no man can work, the boast of man was leveled. If anyone would come to God, He must come through Jesus at the foot of the cross. This is more than poetic, unexpected and profound. It is the best news the human soul has ever heard or received. It is the sound of a celebration in the Father’s house every time a lost son comes home.
Before we can fully appreciate the beauty of the Gospel we must acknowledge the ugly reality of our sin. We must repent. We must turn and walk in a new direction. We must turn from wickedness and lean into righteousness. We must come to the foot of the cross and see Jesus as the only way. We must recognize that our salvation did not cost the Father silver and gold, but the precious blood of His only Son. We must receive the free gift of God and say “yes” to his offer of salvation. We must give God his rightful place of leadership in our life. We don’t do this out of obligation. We do this in celebration of the fact that “Our God reigns!” This is truly Good News.