Who Is God? Part 2 - page 1

 


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From the Spring 2016 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Who Is God? Part 2

by Thomas A. Tarrants III,  D.Min.
Vice President for Ministry & Director
Washington Area Fellows Program, C.S. Lewis Institute

 

n Part 1 of this article, I made brief mention of some of the attributes of God, giving special attention to God as the Creator of heaven and earth and as a God of holy love. It ended with an account of the catastrophic judgment of Judah and the recognition that God’s love can be so deeply violated by persistent, outrageous, unrepented sin that God’s righteousness and justice compel Him to act in judgment.
 Before going further, we must pause and note that God’s judgment is a very unpopular idea today. What Richard Niebuhr observed of Liberal theology in the 1930s is growing in popularity today: “Liberalism believes in a God without wrath, who brings a man without sin, into a Kingdom without judgment, through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”1 Though the old Liberalism itself is not growing, this set of beliefs is becoming increasingly fashionable in other circles; it is implicit in Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (for an explanation of this term, see Part 1 of this article) and is increasingly explicit in other parts of the American church, including some that claim to be evangelical. The critical issue, however, is not what is fashionable but what is true. We must resist popular fashions, which regularly come and go, and anchor ourselves to the unchanging truths of God’s Word, which endures forever.

God’s Judgment and His Goodness

 The truth concerning judgment is that it must always be seen against the backdrop of God’s goodness, from which flow His grace and love. God is not an arbitrary, capricious, vindictive tyrant. Scripture tells us that “The Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:5).2 Because God is good, He does good and not just to some, but to all: “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). God would always rather show mercy than bring judgment on His creatures: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ezek. 18:23); “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live” (Ezek. 18:32). But He has given human beings the power of moral choice, and with it comes the possibility to choose not only good but also evil. When we go astray, God seeks to warn us and call us to repentance, as He did repeatedly for years with both Israel and Judah. He will use the gentlest means necessary to bring us back. But we can choose to ignore His call; we can refuse to hear and heed. When we do so, our deliberate, willful, continuing embrace of evil will eventually bring God’s judgment upon us as it did upon them. And we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
 It is a very serious matter to provoke God’s wrath and trigger His judgment upon our lives. But even in the midst of His chastening blows, we can still forsake our sins and return to the Lord, who is willing to forgive, restore, and bless. A new chapter in life can one day unfold. This was certainly true of the inhabitants of Judah, who had provoked God’s wrath by their egregious sins and as a result were conquered and deported in large numbers to Babylon. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the writer of Lamentations, struggling with feelings that God had been cruel in His judgment, came to see that

the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;for he does not afflict or grieve the children of men (Lam. 3:31–33).

 

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