In Love with the Wrath of God
The Neglected Areas Of God's PersonalityThere are places in God that only a few ever reach out for. It's the unpopular corners of God, the neglected attributes of His personality, the abandoned and sometimes even rejected traits of who He is. Ghost towns, not because there is no treasure to be found but because a superficial survey just doesn't uncover the wealth hidden beneath the soil of prejudices and misconceptions.
The subject of God's wrath is clearly one of those abandoned places. Few deem it wise or necessary to think about the wrath of God. Instead of it being one of His excellencies we get to savor, in most of today's Church it's rather treated like a deficiency in His being, something we feel the urge to apologize for. As if Personified Perfection could ever be subject to moral deficiency...
The wrath of God has been widely misunderstood, misrepresented and neglected. Many exalt God as Father, King, Friend and Lover - few ever love Him for being the mighty Man of war (Isa 42:13). Few ever preach about it, leaving the Church with a lack or false understanding. Many of those who do preach about it, do it in a disturbing manner and with an unbalanced theological agenda that clearly lacks an understanding of His love and mercy. At the other side of the spectrum, some try to annul the aspect of God's wrath entirely under the banner of 'grace'. On top of that it's far from being politically correct.
But regardless of how the world's unredeemed definition of political correctness defies the subject of God, more saddening is what happens within many parts of the Church. Unpopular aspects of God's character are strategically neglected. God Most High is treated like a three year old treats her lunch meal, eating only what she likes, leaving the rest on the plate. Who would have thought that the totally perfect One would be cherry picked by those who love Him? While they love some parts of Him, they simultaneously express that other parts of His being are, apparently, found unworthy of their love.
As if anything God is or does could ever be thought of as deficient or deemed unworthy to be pondered and loved...
As if the clay had a right to judge, even censor, the Potter...
As if our understanding of moral excellence exceeded the standards of God...
All the while it's us who miss out.
He Is Altogether LovelyIn Revelation 4 we are granted a little glimpse into the Throne Room of God, His heavenly dwelling place. Amidst massive manifestations of God's glory and power we find 4 living creatures, seraphim - meaning 'burning ones' - in unceasing adoration. These beings, having eyes without and within, see and understand more clearly than any other creature in heaven or on earth the true nature of God and the raw reality of who He is. And what they see compels them to lift their voices in perpetual worship that never ceases night or day.
Jesus ended the chiefest of His recorded prayers - the High Priestly Prayer - with a prophetic resolve in which He highlights one of the most stunning realities:
"I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." - John 17:26Jesus' desire is to reveal the name of God - His nature, character. What this would do to our hearts is that the very love of God - the passionate, burning, radiant, all-consuming and fiery love of God - would be poured out into our hearts, causing us to feel love for God with the same intensity that God the Father feels love for God the Son.
The revelation of the knowledge of God - the God-given (Mt 16:17) living understanding of who He truly is and all that He is - would cause our hearts to burn with God's own passion. What this means is that every aspect of His being, when thought about rightly, will cause our hearts to abound in love for Him. And the measure of depth, height, length and width we want to seek in the knowledge of God (Eph 3:18) defines the measure of depth, height, length and width with which we can and will love Him back.
With the saints of the Bible I uphold the truth that God is fairer than the sons of man (Ps 45:2). That He is wholly desirable, altogether beautiful and that there is no flaw in Him - perfect in every part. Every aspect of Him - without any exceptions - is beautiful, worthy of my love and, when exalted, will cause me to fall more in love with Him. That's not limited to attributes like His love and mercy but true for every single aspect of who He is. If we reject aspects of His being, we actually reject levels of love for Him. If we neglect aspects of His being, we refuse greater measures of depth in our relationship with Him.
Beholding the Beauty of the LordDavid's life dream, his "one thing", was to "behold the beauty of the Lord" (Ps 27:4) all of his days. Similarly, Moses desired to see the glory of the Lord with his own eyes. Upon this request God promised, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you." (Ex 33:18-19).
"Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation." - Exodus 34:6-7When God Himself expresses who He is and calls it His name and all of His goodness, we better pay close attention. Yet how often is verse 7 left out when quoting this passage even though God considers it an important part of who He is? Paul called us to "behold the kindness and severity of God ..." (Rom 11:22). He knew that seeing what the angels see - all of who He is - would cause our hearts to burn as theirs do, and our faces to shine like Moses' did.
Loving God For All He IsI don't want to stop at the popular and convenient attributes of God. In my search for the depths of the knowledge of God, my desire to know Him most intimately and my dream to love Him well, I don't want to spare the corners of God that only a few ever visit. Who am I to cherry pick the character of my Creator?
We significantly limit our heart response toward God if we neglect or reject aspects of His being. Areas of our heart will remain dull toward Him. We were made for God, to seek Him, reach out for Him, behold Him and fall madly in love with what we see. Our purpose is to love Him with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength. All the same we are made to love all of His heart, all of His personality, all of His ways, all that He is.
But there is more to it than deeper levels of love for God. Amidst all the distortion and reduction of the character and glory of God in today's society and many parts of the Church, the Father is seeking worshipers who would worship Him in the truth of who He is (John 4:23) - all of who He is. Jesus' heart is looking and yearning for human beings that love Him for who He really is, not just what they want Him to be, people who would be with Him where He is (John 17:24) - wherever that might be - one with Him and in alignment with Him in every area. Today the cry of His heart is: Where are the people who - like Moses, like David, like Paul - would love Me for who I really am? For all that I am?
This is the question of the hour: Do we love God for all that He is? Do we wholeheartedly agree with ALL of His being, worship His justice just as much as His mercy, His holiness just as much as His love? Do we want to know God as He really is? Or do we cherry pick His character, selecting the aspects that we like best, casting aside those that we don't like? Do we let God be God?
Jesus is yearning for people who would love Him for who He really is. Will He find us? Will we be these people?
Blessed Is He Who Is Not OffendedBig were the crowds that followed Jesus when He first walked upon the earth. They followed Him everywhere, so much that He had to purposefully hide Himself in order to find private time with the Father. They were waiting for the Messiah, and they had specific hopes and expectations.
But when Jesus started hitting unpopular topics, suddenly the masses turned away from Him. It must have been so comprehensive that Jesus even turned to the twelve from His inner circle, asking them, "you do not want to go away also, do you?" (John 6:67)
Disillusionment was what they experienced. Disillusionment is literally the removal of illusions. They had bought into an illusion about who Jesus was and as He removed these misconceptions, revealing to them who He really was, they got offended at Him.
Many were shocked, disappointed and offended at His first coming. Many will be shocked, disappointed and offended at His second coming. The great falling away won't only happen because evil will abound but because people will get confronted with who Jesus really is. If we don't sign up to get to know the real Him now, we are likely to experience disillusionment and even to get offended at God and turn away from Him then. It's a most dangerous place to be and we shouldn't underestimate the terrible implications this will have.
"Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." (Mt 11:6)When He returns I don't want to be shocked nor surprised when I look into His eyes that burn like flames of fire, when I see His zeal and how far His love will go. I want to look into His eyes and discover the God that I've gotten to know and loved all along. I want what I see to be in alignment with what I have believed, enjoyed and worshiped all along.
Vibrant Hearts Amidst End-Time JudgmentsIn Isaiah 63 we find an illustration of a most terrifying end-time scene. We see Jesus returning and restoring justice and holiness on this planet. His garments drip with the blood of His enemies. In this context, Isaiah prophesies the words of the Messiah:
"I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath, and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come." - Isaiah 63:3-4When was the last time we heard a sermon or teaching about this side of Jesus? How shocking will it be when this scene unfolds in front of our very eyes? "Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." (Mt 11:6)
Twice in the Book of Revelation this scene is referenced. First in Rev 14:19-20, talking about angels gathering the rebellious to throw them into the wine press of the wrath of God, just before chapter 15 introduces the seven last plagues of the wrath of God. The second reference we find in Rev 19:15, embedded into a most glorious description of the glory of the God-Man, His vengeance being part of that glory.
In the context of these scenes we find believers, the end-time church. What are they doing? Are they shocked at the Lamb of God that returns as the Lion of Judah? Are they offended at Him? Are they telling Jesus to calm down? Are they just standing by, not knowing what to say?
No, the most stunning thing happens: Following the description of the winepress and preceding the release of the 7 bowls of wrath, they sing the song of Moses, crying out with one voice: "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations" (Rev 15:3). Revelation 19 further intensifies this scene. Here we find the Church's glorious four-fold Hallelujah (Rev 19:1-6). The only occurrence of the word "Hallelujah" in the New Testament, here appearing four times, is in the context of the release of God's most terrible judgments on earth.
In the midst of the most severe judgment this planet will ever see, the saints cry out in highest praises. We find the people of God in wholehearted agreement with God and all of His ways, boldly proclaiming that all His judgments are marvelous - not just ok, but glorious. They are far from being offended. Their burning hearts of love overflow in affection, praise and worship of highest quality. Their hearts are yoked to Jesus and no one and nothing could quench their allegiance to Him.
Unreserved Allegiance To JesusMy vision goes beyond not being offended. In that day, I don't just want to be unoffended at God. I don't just want to be not shocked. No, I want to be in unreserved, wholehearted agreement with all His ways, motives, purposes, character and emotions. When He returns, I want my heart and my theology to be ready to embrace Him fully, and more than that, to join the angels and all of the saints in worship of His magnificent leadership.
I want to clarify that I'm not exalting severe judgment and violent vindication here. I'm not one of those crazy, bitter dudes who pace through the streets of West Hollywood prophesying judgment on passersby. No, but what I want to make a stand for here is an unreserved devotion to Jesus and full agreement with all that God is and all that He does. I want to boldly uphold that everything about Him is perfect and beautiful and glorious and most worthy of all of my love and affection.
We need to see and love Jesus for all that He is, not just those attributes of Him that we find convenient, nice or that are culturally accepted. We as Christians and friends of the Lamb can't just cherry-pick His character and select what we like. We have neither the wisdom, the right nor the moral integrity to judge God and His ways. This is an invitation and exhortation to trust God Most Wise that He knows best what needs to be done, that God Most Compassionate chooses the mildest means necessary to accomplish His purposes, that God Most High is worthy of all of my love and adoration and that God Most Beautiful is most beautiful, most fascinating and most capable to ravish the human heart the way He truly. is.
In that day, I want to be part of a Bride that is neither shocked nor offended at God, but in wholehearted agreement and loving adoration of the Lamb. I want to be one of those who know their God and who have known all along that He is like that - that He is the kind and tender Lamb but also the zealous and mighty Lion. I want to be one of those who stand with Jesus no matter what, who are in agreement with all of His character and all of His ways at the heart level. I want to be one of those that Jesus longed for in the garden of Gethsemane - those who would be with Him where He is (John 17:24) and follow Him wherever He goes (Rev 14:4).
Will He find this kind of faith on the earth? And will He find us, you and me?
Early in my life I set my heart to love His wrath as much as any other of His attributes. I will be just as much in love with His wrath as I am with His kindness and faithfulness. Because He is completely beautiful and there is no flaw in Him. Because I want to know all of Him and find affection in my heart for everything He is. Because I want to be in unreserved allegiance with this Man who is going to return to rule on earth forever.
As for me, this is what I set my heart to: "I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments." (Psalm 119:7)