Saturday, January 19, 2019

When the Beatitudes Meet an Angry God

This morning I journeyed through an amazing connection between the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the despondent picture of sinners in the hands of an angry God.[1] It went well.

Of particular note were the first four Beatitudes, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, and blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. And, with that, how do I see my repeated journey through these qualities of experience in light of God’s justice against sin?

My answer is based on the fact that I am a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ, not a Worldling pursuing everything independent of God.[2] The fact that I have made so many journeys through the Beatitudinal Valley as a beloved child of God means that, when the good-boy part of me discovers he is actually a disgusting sinner after all, I am NOT in the hands of an angry God!!!!

I don’t mean that Worldlings who remain in the world won’t one day find themselves in the hands of a just and wrathful God.

I mean that, everything I have learned about my sinfulness in God’s sight has been AFTER I have already been redeemed out of my darkness and brought into the glorious and safe light of our Lord Jesus Christ.[3] The reason I see my sinfulness is because the light of Jesus Christ that has already brought me into the adoption as a son of God is showing it to me in the safety of God’s grace.

To go through the first four Beatitudes, I did not discover my poverty of spirit in the hands of an angry God. I discovered this reality in the Beatitudinal Valley where I was blessed in the discovery because I was already in the kingdom of God.

I did not find myself mourning my sin because I was suddenly aware of the anger of God against me in the hopeless judgment I deserved. No, I found myself mourning my sin because I was surrounded by the blessings of God urging me to open my heart to his comforts!

I did not feel the meekness that concludes it is impossible to fix anything about me while in a black hole of hopelessness that made me think my life was not worth living. No! I came to this realization when I knew that Jesus was smiling down on me with the love of the Triune who wanted me to see my own inability in the light of both their ability to do all I needed and their overflowing readiness to do so.

And, I did not find myself hungering and thirsting for righteousness I did not have in a desert of despair where there was no hope I would ever be satisfied. It was at the table of delights set before me by the grace of God that I saw everything I did not have as a gift of grace right before my eyes. And, on the table was a promise, that simply through letting myself hunger and thirst for the righteousness set before me in the gospel, I would be satisfied with the very righteousness for which I now longed.

Now here is the horrible thing: there ARE people who will only discover the utter poverty of their spirits at the return of Jesus Christ when they see the wrath of God ready to pour out upon their sins in utterly deserved condemnation.[4]

There ARE people who will face the judgment of God with such horror and weeping and gnashing of teeth that they will feel abject terror and hopelessness as no one on earth has ever felt it before.[5]

There ARE people who will suddenly acknowledge within themselves that there is no possible way they can do anything at all to fix what is messed up and broken about them and they will know the greatest despair the human soul could ever experience.[6]

But here is the facet of this horror that will prove their judgment is just, that even with all the impending wrath of God literally staring them in the face at the return of Jesus Christ, they will NOT have any hunger or thirst to have the righteousness they were missing. Even under the weight of the eternal wrath of God, they will still love the darkness in which they could freely hide their evil deeds.[7]

Looking at this from both sides magnifies the glory of God’s grace in what he has done for a good-boy-sinner like me. Everything I have learned about the awfulness of my sin has been in the safety of a relationship with God as my heavenly Father who delights to love me, and wisely disciplines me into the likeness of his Son.[8]

God’s Book authorizes me to believe this wonderfully impossible thing by telling me such things as this: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”[9]

This means that I was a recipient of the love of God while I was still a sinner. This played out in real life when my consciousness of sin was so clearly touching me because I was already made alive in Jesus Christ. It is like someone suddenly discovering the terrible thing they had done by causing a huge traffic accident right when the paramedics efforts at CPR had just brought them back to life!

Even in the darkest moments when I was most aware of what a failure I have been to be the good boy I always wanted to be, it is “BLESSED are the poor in spirit”.

So, this is God’s work, to make me feel blessed when I face the poverty of my spirit because then I know the kingdom of God is mine to enter and enjoy forever.

God makes me feel blessed when I mourn anything that is still sinfully and selfishly wrong with me because it is in the mourning of anything wrong with me that I experience the gracious comforts of God my loving and beloved heavenly Father.

My Father makes me feel blessed in my admission of meekness (I can’t fix me) because at the time that I see I have absolutely NOTHING to offer God he shows me that he has absolutely EVERYTHING to give me as his beloved adopted child.

And, as I am learning more deeply all the time, when I find myself so aware of the latest fault or failing, and see gifts of righteousness that I long to have in my life, I am already blessed by the heart of my Father because he is ready to satisfy me in the morning with his unfailing love as soon as I admit my need for him.[10]

Well, enough said. I hope this encourages you who believe the gospel of the kingdom that you are as beloved in Jesus Christ on the day you must admit your worst sin as the day you have your most wonderful experience of fellowship in the Holy Spirit. Don’t ever resist the Spirit’s work of shining the light of Jesus into your heart where you will need to admit what was hiding in the darkness as you enjoy the fellowship of light that is invading your inner being. The Beatitudes assure us explicitly that everything God does (on both sides of the Beatitudinal Valley) are filled with the blessings of his grace.

For anyone reading this who knows that you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior through the good news of the gospel, be assured of this, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”[11] Let today be your day of salvation.[12]

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

[1] The Sermon on the Mount is in Matthew 5-7, and the Beatitudes introduce this sermon in Matthew 5:1-12. The picture of sinners in the hands of God comes from Hebrews 10:31, with the context of Hebrews 10:26-31 showing that there is indeed the angry justice of God awaiting all who spurn his gift of grace in Jesus Christ.
[2] Child of God: John 1:12-13; Worldling: Romans 3:9-20
[3] Colossians 1:13-14
[4] Revelation 6:12-16
[5] This link will let you look at each verse in its context.
[6] Luke 16:19-31
[7] John 3:19 speaks of people’s love of darkness and evil deeds. Without redemption, even the wrath of God pouring upon them will not make sinners love righteousness. Revelation 9:20-21 shows the world facing temporal judgments that brought misery to many survivors, but there was no desire for repentance. Revelation 16:9-11 shows people experiencing the temporal judgments on earth and being so angry at God for messing up their nice little world that they curse him without any repentance for the sin that brought the judgment in the first place. When Jesus returns, the world will hate him for his impending judgment on their sin, but will never repent for anything they did to bring this justice upon them.
[8] Hebrews 12:6 and Revelation 3:19 show that God disciplines those he loves. Many Scriptures affirm what is declared in II Corinthians 3:18 and Romans 8:28-30, that God’s interest is in conforming us to the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
[9] Romans 5:8 (context: Romans 5:1-11)
[10] This beautiful picture of God satisfying us in the morning with his unfailing love comes from Psalm 90:14. It is one of my favorite things to pray in the morning!
[11] Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13
[12] Isaiah 49:8; II Corinthians 6:2

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