Saturday, March 4, 2017

God’s Word Continues to Break the Shack-les

With the book, “the Shack”, now making it onto the big screen, many people are debating the merits or demerits of the story. For me, the author’s description of his misrepresentation of God was enough to decide to have nothing to do with the work.

However, as I hear people who profess to be Christians justifying the book, and so many wanting a God who is all about love without any justice against sin, it seems necessary to speak up for the truth of God’s word, and let the light of truth reveal the false teachings in the Shack.

I also want to say that I understand why so many church-folk are drawn to the emotional side of the Shack since churches are often weak in helping people address their true soul-condition in light of the love of God. It’s just that the poison of false teachings in the Shack lead people to miss out on what would happen if they could experience God ministering to their brokenheartedness as he really is, not as someone has remade him in their own image.

Today I came across this quote from the Shack in a Facebook post, along with a whole collection of comments from people supporting the message expressed. Here is the quote: "I am not who you think I am, I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” - God, responding to Mack at the shack

Since the question is whether the Shack is true to the revelation of God in the Bible, to help measure the truthfulness of the above quote from the Shack, consider what God himself says in his word. Does his word say that he has no purpose to punish sin? Or does his “joy to cure it” require the punishing of sin?

1.  With respect to the world’s rejection of God:

“He who sits in the heavens laughs;    the Lord holds them in derision.Then he will speak to them in his wrath,    and terrify them in his fury, saying,‘As for me, I have set my King    on Zion, my holy hill.’” (Psalm 2:4-6)

2.  God’s word to his rebellious people through his prophet Jeremiah:

“I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath.” (Jeremiah 21:5)

3.  A clear message that it is not sin that punishes sinners, but God who punishes sinners:

“He (God) will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” (Romans 2:6-8)

4.  God uses the word “fury” to characterize the nature of “his wrath”:

“The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.” (Revelation 16:19)

5.  Showing how Jesus participates in the expression of God’s wrath:

“From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:15-16)

6.  The word “propitiation” in the Bible indicates the way Jesus bore the wrath of God against our sin in order that we could be saved from the wrath of God against our sin when we turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith:

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:10).

7.  Both love and condemnation are woven through the gospel message so that it is clearly understood that those who receive the gospel are delivered from the condemnation against their sin, while those who refuse the gospel are still under the condemnation of God against their sin:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18).

8.  That the “condemnation” against our sins includes God’s “wrath” against our sins is abundantly clear:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)

9.  The prophetic description of how the unredeemed will react to the return of Jesus Christ bears witness to the wrath of God against sin (notice the specific connection to Jesus, the Lamb of God):

“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17)

10.  The glory of the good news in Jesus Christ is that God delivers his people from everything to do with sin, including his wrath against sin, but only on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ, and our participation in that work by grace through faith:

“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (I Thessalonians 1:9-10)

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:1-9)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

Joyful Conclusion

The glory of the gospel message is that we proclaim both the justice of God that is satisfied in the death of Jesus Christ, and the mercy of God that can now extend grace to sinners by cancelling their debt-load of sin. We can’t proclaim a god who is so loving that he has zero call for justice.

Instead, we show both that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”[1] and that we “are justified by his grace as a gift”. [2]

However, this move from condemnation to justification is only,

through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.[3]

Notice that? God is both “just”, and he is “the justifier”. He has to be shown as judging sin for those who reject Christ, and justifying “the one who has faith in Jesus.” To suggest that he never condemns or punishes sin is not true. To condemn God as unloving is not true. To deny that he justifies people is not true. But to think that he justifies people who do not repent and put their faith in Jesus is not true.

The same with the declaration that, “the wages of sin is death”.[4] It does not stand alone, as though the only way we are to see God is as a vengeful and wrathful deity. Instead, we continue the sentence with, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, yes, “the wages of sin is death,” and that still applies to all who live in sin. Yes, it is also true that “the free gift of God is eternal life”, and that still applies to all who receive the gift. And, yes, the only place people will find this eternal life is, “in Christ Jesus our Lord”, with no eternal life found for anyone else in anyone else.

From some of the comments following this particular Facebook post I grieved both the message of the book, and the beliefs of people who take this as justification to believe whatever they please about God. My contention is that the most pleasing things to believe about God are the things he says about himself, and, with that, I recommend a much better Book.

© 2017 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Romans 3:23
[2] Romans 3:26
[3] Romans 3:24-26
[4] Romans 6:23