Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Kindness And Severity Of God

Continuing in my reading of Matt Chandler's book The Explicit Gospel I came across this section on the kindness and severity of God, 
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
 Romans 11:22

Pastor Chandler rightly points out that we do not talk nearly enough about the severity of God, he writes:
God's responses of kindness and severity both come from His perfect and holy self-sufficiency, they are both extended justly to His creation, but the chief difference between them - and the reason we don't talk about it as much - is that only severity is deserved.
He also notes that the severity of God is not taught today because it does not present God as warm and fuzzy, he says:
Paul says to note God's severity. Mark it down. Remember it. Consider it. But we are disobedient. Because God's severity is not as warm and fuzzy as God's kindness, we not only don't study or contemplate it, but we don't even note it. We live in a day and age when, from pre-seminary all the way through seminary, prospective pastors are fed pablum about church growth. Then once the hit the playing field of ministry they are fed it more and more. From books to classes to seminars to conferences, the church is absolutely consumed with growing at all costs.Forget whether the members of our churches have any real depth or substance to them; we just want to be able to measure and count the three Bs: buildings, budgets, and butts in the seat. The Bible does say a few things about churches growing in those ways, but today this has become the prevailing mind-set of ministry in evangelicalism, and it is a bibically perverted, missionally distorted mind-set.
He then goes on to say:
The avoidance of the difficult thins of Scripture - of sinfulness and hell and God's severity - is idolatrous and cowardly. If a man or woman who teaches the Scripture is afraid to explain to you the severity of God, they have betrayed you. In the same way that it is not loving or kind not to coach your children on the dangers of the street and the dangers of the swimming pool, so it is not loving not to warn men and women about the severity of God. 
He then goes on the illustrate how we can address this topic by quoting Matthew 3:11-12 and showing how John the Baptist addressed it:

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 
Matthew 3:11-12
Then Pastor Chandler writes this:
We get the impression from the Old Testament that the universe is God's threshing floor. John is warning his hearers that Jesus is going to get to work on the universe, and He's going to gather His wheat into the barn. But the chaff He will He will burn in unquenchable fire. This is the purpose of Jesus's arrival. (Note in this passage both the kindness and the severity of God.)
Pastor Chandler goes on to give a description of Jesus' use of the word Gehenna, which is translated hell in our English Bibles; he talks about how Gehenna was a refuse dump on the south side of Jerusalem and how Jesus used this to illustrate the severity of God toward those who reject Him (the chaff in the verses above). He writes:
When Jesus used the word Gehenna, He's saying, "It's like this ravine, the valley of Haman; this is what I am talking to you about." The image to hold in our mind is putrid and repulsive, it is dead and deadly; it is smoldering when not blazing. It is utterly desolate, spiritually dark, and endlessly oppressive, and it is the established picture even in these extremes of the slightest falling short of God's glory.
So I want to leave you today with two verses:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23

For our God is a consuming fire. 
Hebrews 12:29

Spend some time today meditating on these two verses and think about the kindness and severity of God, and how both are related to the Gospel.