RS: I think there are some really significant verses that kind of stand out that I want to kind of focus on and spend some time on, then I want to close with a theme that you see in John 3, really you see through the whole book of John, but, where I’d like to start is with verses 19 and 20. Ben Patrick, would you read those for us?
Ben: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
RS: Okay. Thank you. There are two words that you see used often in the book of John, and you don’t see these words used that often in any of the other Gospels, and those two words are really almost kind of interchangeable, but they are oh, so, significant. And, they are the words “Light” and the word “Truth”. And what’s so interesting is Jesus claims to be both of those. You know, in John 8:12, He says, “I am the Light of the World”, and He closes out that verse, and says, basically if you come to Me, you will have the light of life. And then, in John 14:6, He claims to be “The Truth”, not a truth that’s out there, not one of the many, He says, “I am the Truth.” I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” No, just out of curiosity, I went to my concordance, and this is interesting. The Word “Truth” is used 27 times in the book of John. I counted them. But, the word “truth” is only used three times in the book of Luke, twice in the book of Mark, and only once in Matthew, which is 28 chapters, the longest of the gospels. And then the word “light” is used 23 times in the book of John, ten times in the book of Luke, twice in the book of Mark, and twelve times in the book of Matthew. And you kind of get a glimpse of their relationship with each other back, and I’ll just read it real quick, back in John 1:9. It says, “There was the True Light,” not just a light, “the True Light, which, coming into the world,” enlightens every man, and every woman.” Jesus was the True Light. He came into the world to enlighten us. But that’s what truth does, as well. Truth enlightens. And then in verse 19, that Ben read, we see something about the human relationship to life and truth. And what is that relationship? Look at verse 19. What is the relationship?
Unidentified audience member: Judgement.
Unidentified audience member: Love, hate.
RS: Men love the darkness is what it says. We don’t love light, we love, there’s something natural about humanity that loves the darkness. And we really get some good insight into this, and the reason, by the way, you’ll see there, is because light exposes. Think about it. Light exposes. Truth exposes. You know, anybody ever confront you with the truth? Kind of expose you? I think to get some really good insight into this, keep your finger in John 3, and go over to John 7. Go to John chapter 7 and look at verse 7. “And Jesus says, the world cannot hate you, but it hates me.” Why? Why does the world hate Him? What does it say? Because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. I tell the world that I expose sin, and people don’t like that. Let me read you what the Amplified, this is John 7:7 from the Amplified. It says, “The world cannot be expected to hate you, but it does hate me, because I denounce it for its wicked works and reveal that its doings are sinful.”
You know, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I’ve seen this in my life. I’m 63. I’ve seen this in my lifetime. That, as our nation seems to have drifted further and further from its Judeo-Christian roots, as we’ve drifted further into the darkness, Christianity today is regarded differently than it was 50 years ago. More and more people in our culture hate it, and the reason is, is because Christianity says that certain deeds are good and certain deeds are evil. Certain deeds are good and certain deeds are sinful, and people don’t like to hear that.
I was reading one of my favorite authors, a guy by the name of, some of you know this, a guy by the name of Peter Kreeft. Last I checked on Google, he still teaches Philosophy at Boston College. He’s 80 years old. He’s written 50-something books. And one of his books, and this is, if this sounds familiar, it’s in the book, my book, Reliable Truth, and he says this, “Fear of permanent objective laws is amazingly selective. In my opinion,” and he’s talking about morality, okay, he says, “when it gets right down to it, there’s really one area. It’s the area of sex. Human sexuality.” He said, “In my experience, my students, like other professors, they bluff a lot. And they do adroit intellectual dancing. But I would bet a wad of money that if you got rid of all the sexual prohibitions in the Bible, nearly all of the hatred and fear of Christianity and the Church would vanish.” I think he’s right. The world doesn’t like what the Bible has to say about human sexuality. In fact, in one of the groups yesterday, it may have been the one at 11:00, we got into a discussion about how, if you think about all of the problems in our country that arise from the misuse and abuse of our sexuality. I mean, I read where, if you basically can get rid of people having children out of wedlock, you could almost get rid of the problem of poverty in our land.
Think about all that. Think about what pornography does. Adultery. You got the issue of homosexuality. You got the issue of abortion. You’ve got all of the sexually transmitted diseases that are out there. You know there used to be, 25 years ago, there was one, or there were like two or three sexually transmitted diseases, and today there’s 25. You just see this cascading into our culture. And as Andy Stanley says, if you could get rid of all of those problems that arise from the misuse of human sexuality, he said, we wouldn’t have that many problems in our country. And I think there’s truth in that.
But the fact of the matter is, the fact that Jesus comes out and testifies to the truth and says that your deeds are evil, your deeds are sinful. He says, people are going to hate me for that. And I think we see that. Let me stop here. Comments or questions? Billy.
Billy: Are you saying that back 2,000 plus years ago that sexuality wasn’t as rampant, and Jesus was forecasting this when He was talking to these people?
RS: No, the thing about sexuality was just one period of life, but, as you’ll see next week when we look at the woman at the well who had been married five times and was living with a guy, a lot of what we see today, they experienced it too. I don’t think the human condition has changed a whole lot.
Billy: I don’t either, but they’re not talking about indiscriminate sex, and cheating on your partners, and all that kind of stuff. They’re talking about envy, and….
RS: I think they’re talking about a host of things. If you look at the things that Jesus comes -and we’re going to look at this in just a second – I think that as you look at the entirety of scripture, the Bible is pretty all-encompassing on what is sinful and what is not, and I use the one from Kreeft as just an example of one area, and look at because of what the Bible has to say about human sexuality, and sexual morality, look at what it has stirred up, just that one area. And it has. Charlie.
Charlie: Richard, if you do look, especially at the Roman Empire at this time, the sexual immorality and the horror that was going on is, I think, even comparable to what it is today. It’s just unbelievably horrific.
RS: Yes. History shows you as, particularly, as the Empire kind of slowly went down into the Abyss, that was one of the things that stood out, was just the unbelievable sexual immorality that was taking place, and just the abuse, I mean…
Unidentified audience member: We don’t need to get into it.
[Multiple unidentified comments and related chatter]
RS: It was bad. It was really bad.
Unidentified audience member: Sodom and Gomorrah and everything else.
Unidentified audience member: You don’t think they had transgender bathroom issues, do you?
RS: I don’t think so.
[Laughter; Multiple comments and related chatter]
RS: All right guys, we can’t get derailed here. All right? There are several other things that we’re told about the human relationship to light and truth that I want to look at real quick. Keep your finger, if you would, on John 3, and turn over in your New Testament to II Thessalonians chapter 2. Right before I and II Timothy. II Thessalonians chapter 2, we’re going to look at verse 10. Everybody there? Frank, you want to read it?
Frank: Which verse?
RS: Chapter 2, verse 10. This, by the way, you’re going to be picking, you really need to go back to verse 8 to pick up the whole, entire teaching, because you’ll catch this mid-sentence, but go ahead.
Frank: “And all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so, be saved.”
RS: Yeah, that’s a little verse that nobody really ever notices. It talks about people who perish, spiritually, and it give the reason why. And, what’s the reason?
Unidentified audience member: Refusal.
RS: They refused to love the truth. Isn’t that amazing? We’re going to get into that about refusing to love the truth when we get back into chapters 10 and 11 when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and the way people respond to it. Yeah Bob?
Bob: I’ve got two projects right now we’re working on. They’re people and they’re struggling from addiction, very good friends of ours, and if I can get them to believe that Jesus still loves them while they’re fighting their sins and addiction, that they’re still worthy of Jesus’ love. They feel like they’re, honestly, I feel like they feel like sometimes that they’re not worthy to have a relationship in the state of mind they’re in. Does that make sense?
RS: Yeah. And I think the…
Bob: They’ve just gone so deep and so low, they just – no self-esteem.
RS: Well, in a situation like that, as you work with them, ultimately God has got to do a work in their lives. The power of the Holy Spirit, and you know, having been involved with one of those guys, that I think there’s real hope for them, because I think he wants to get well.
Bob: And I think they both want it, but sometimes I just feel like they’re not, they don’t feel worthy.
Unidentified audience member: Just look at the next verse. “For this reason, God sends them a powerful delusion that they will believe the lie.”
RS: Yeah. That’s why the Truth and the Light are so important and [14:43 unintelligible word] and that’s one of the things that we seek to do here is to take the light and the truth out into the world. It exposes sin, and you know what, we need to, that’s one of the keys to understanding the Christian faith, you know, if you look in verse 17, it says Jesus, one of the reasons He came into the world was to save the world. On the one hand, He comes to expose the sin of the world, and your sin has got to be exposed in order for you to know that you have a need to be forgiven, that you have a need for a Savior. And so, you see these things go – Jesus didn’t just come into the world to testify of the truth and to expose the world of sin, He also came to save the world, and that’s the thing that people, you know, that they hate, their sin being exposed, but it has to be. That’s why the law, it says, is like a tutor that comes to expose our sins and show us our need of a Savior to be forgiven.
And if you keep going, as we think about this idea of testifying of the truth, it reminds me of what Jesus said to Pilate in His conversation with Pilate. Do ya’ll remember we’ve talked about this before. In John 18:37, Jesus is talking to Pilate and Pilate says, so you are a King? And Jesus said, you say correctly that I am a King. For this I have been born, listen to this, he says, “And for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.” He says this is one of the reasons I have come into the world, to tell the world the truth. And then He goes on to say, “And everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Now, what is “of the Truth” mean? You go to the Amplified, it says, everyone who is of the truth, who is a friend of the truth, who belongs to the truth, who loves the truth, will hear My voice. And isn’t it interesting Jesus uses that word again to testify to the truth, to declare to the world what is true, that our deeds are sinful, that we are sinful people. But again, Jesus says, I didn’t come just to tell the world that they’re sinful and expose the world to their sin, I came also to save them. To save them from the sin and the evil, if you will only let Him. But, as we read back in II Thessalonians, people refused to love the truth. John 3:19, “The true light has come into the world, but men love the darkness instead of the truth.” Now, let me just show you how this works out in real life, and one more incident in the Bible, and this is worth us looking at for just a second. Go to Acts chapter 17, right next to John; Acts 17, we don’t have far, and go to the first verse. I’m just going to walk you through this real quickly. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover here. Keep your finger in John; Acts 17. Look at those first two verses. Paul basically is going into Thessalonika with some people. It says “they”, and then, look at verse 2. “According to Paul’s custom, he went to them and for three Sabbaths,” and notice what it says, “he reasoned with them from the Scriptures. Now what Scriptures are we talking about here?
Unidentified audience member: The Old Testament.
RS: The Old Testament. It’s kind of like he would beeline for the synagogue and these were, and who were at the synagogue but all the Jews, and he would basically take their Old Testament and show them how the Old Testament pointed to a Messiah that would come, a suffering Messiah, Jesus. And he would reason with them. And the great thing about Paul; Paul was an incredibly learned man. He was brilliant. He had been well-trained and what does it say in verse 4? And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But if you keep reading, it says, but a lot of the Jews didn’t like the message. They hated the message. They stirred up trouble. I mean, basically, you see an unbelievable contrast. Some listened as Paul reasoned with the scriptures, and then, but some hated it. They stirred up trouble. They went and got a bunch of thugs with them, and came out and beat them up, drug them out and drug them off.
But fortunately, they get Paul and Silas out of there. Look at verse 10. “The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea.” And when they arrive, what do they do? Straight to the synagogue. Beeline. Now, look at verse 11. In the NIV, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians.” The New American says, “They were more noble-minded than those at Thessalonika. For they received the message with great eagerness.” And this is important, guys. “They examined the scriptures every day.” Why? They wanted to see if what Paul was saying was true. These Bereans were noble-minded. They were looking for the truth. They searched the scriptures. They examined. They wondered if what Paul is telling us is true. And then, of course in verse 12, it says, “And many of the Jews believed, as did a number of the prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” It makes a huge difference, is, do you love the truth, do you want the truth?
C.S. Lewis says, the one thing that led him to Christ was the approach he took in his search for spiritual truth. There were a group of literary figures, they were young, I think Tolkien was one of them, I think, they were good friends, and they were called “The Inklings”, and they had a motto. And the motto was “follow the truth wherever it leads.” You shouldn’t be fearful of the truth. So, follow it wherever it leads, and he says, that is what led me out of atheism, to theism, and ultimately to Christianity and Jesus. Let me stop here and see if you have any comments or questions. Anybody?
Unidentified audience member: The verb in verse 5 is “jealous”, I mean, really that’s what is the difference in those Jews there were protective, if you will, of Paul.
RS: They didn’t like the message. They didn’t like people coming to Christ. They were leaving their Judaism. I mean, here he is in the synagogue, and the people there in the synagogue are really kind of listening, abandoning their Judaism, to follow Jesus.
Unidentified audience member: And in both cases, there were Greeks in the room, who were not, who were probably there more, who didn’t have the Jewish heritage, and were probably not as willing to listen.
RS: That’s a good point. Very good point. Anybody else? All right, let’s, we’re going to leave those verses. We’re going to go to verse 25, 26, and 27. John 3, back to John 3. Tom Wall, how about reading 25 to 27, if you don’t mind of John 3?
Tom: “Therefore, there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to Whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.
RS: Now, guys that verse 27 is rather significant and whether we like it or not, what John is saying is that all that you are, and all that you have, is a gift from God. A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from Heaven above. He’s given you your DNA, He’s given you your talents and your abilities, He put you right here in Birmingham, Alabama, and John, if you go back to Acts 17, Paul talks about that. That He gave us basically this appointed time in history. As I said to one group yesterday, Just think: you could have born a hundred years ago in Bolivia. But you were not. You’re here today. And James says, “Do not be deceived, every good and perfect gift in your life is a gift from Heaven above.” Then, in the Old Testament, remember David’s final words, a final prayer before he died. We’ve looked at this before. It’s a prayer to God and he says, both riches and honor come from You, and it lies in your Hand to make people great or not necessarily make them great. And then, Moses in Deuteronomy 8 says, if you don’t see this, if you don’t understand John 3:27, he says, you know what will happen? He says, you will say in your heart, my power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth, but, Moses says, but you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth.
I wonder how many wealthy and powerful people believe and understand that God gave them the ability to create wealth, to create success, to create whatever comes into their lives. One of my favorites that really kind of drives this point home is Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. Remember Nebuchadnezzar, the powerful King of Babylon? It says he was strutting arrogantly in his palace overlooking this great Babylon. And remember what he says? The King reflected and said, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I, myself, have built as a royal residence, by the might of my power, and for the glory of my majesty.” Do you remember what happened to him after he said that?
Unidentified audience member: It didn’t go well.
RS: It didn’t go well. That’s an understatement. He was banished from power. He lost his mind. Now, he regained it, but only when he got back in right relationship with God, but he lost his mind. And this is what God said to him. He says, this is going to be your fate Nebuchadnezzar, until you recognize that the Most High is the ruler of the realm of mankind and he bestows it on whomever he wishes. Guys, this perspective on your life is critical if you’re going to have any degree of humility at all. And if you’re going to keep pride out of your life. Paul says it so well in I Corinthians 4:7, Paul says, “Who regards you as being superior to everyone else, when everything in your life you have received from God and if you’ve received it from God, why do you boast as if you haven’t?” Why are you like Nebuchadnezzar? This has to be the foundation, guys, of your worldview and perspective if you’re going to truly be humble.
Remember the definition of humility? I love Drayton Nabers’ definition of humility in his book, The Case for Character. He says, “Humility is a form of wisdom. Humility is thinking clearly and simply being realistic. Humility is knowing Who really deserves the credit and the glory for what we do.” Humility, guys, is seeing life through the lens of John 3:27, because if we don’t, we will take all the credit for anything good that comes into our lives. Now, this makes sense when a lot of good things are happening in your life. Or you have done well in your life. Your career has gone well, your family is, things are going well, you know, it’s so easy to want to take credit. But how does this apply when hardship comes into your life, when storms come into your life, which Jesus tells us in advance that they will come. Does John 3:27 apply to that? I see some heads going yes, yes, yes.
I had a guy that I met with this week, got a huge, I don’t want to say this, got some really very difficult news on his health out of the blue. And I said, well, you know, do you think that God might want to use this purposefully somehow in your life? And I don’t know that he was thinking in those terms. But, you know, Jesus says, in John 15, “I’m the Vinedresser, and I often will prune the vine in order that you will bear more fruit.” He’s saying there is purpose. What does Paul say about the thorn in the flesh? God gave me a thorn in my flesh. He says, why? To keep me from exalting myself. God uses hardship and the storms of life purposefully, and most of you know, but a number of you don’t, because it’s been a while since I’ve shared this, one of my favorite quotes, where you see this ring so true is Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Eight years of his life in prison. Eight years. But, he goes in as an atheist, he comes out as a Godly man. He goes in as a young man, he comes out; eight years of his life in a prison, and you know what he says when he comes out? Many of you know the quote because I’ve quoted it so much. What does he say?
Unidentified audience member: Something about rotting straw.
RS: Somebody said that yesterday. “I bless you prison. I bless you for being in my life, for there, lying on rotting prison straw, I learned that the object of life was not prosperity, as I’d grown up to believe, it is the maturing of the soul. It’s the transformation of your character. It’s to know God.” How many men step back and really stop and think, what is the object of life? Why am I here? What’s it all about? Solzhenitsyn says, I learned it was not prosperity. It’s the maturing of the soul. It’s your relationship with God. I’m meeting with a guy right now, who has been through a very, very difficult time, and yet, you know what it’s done? It’s led him to an unbelievably deep, and, how do I want to put it, he’s just real excited about his relationship with God, and he’s growing and he’s seeking, and I pointed out to him, I said, you know, if this hadn’t have happened to you, where would you be today? I said, you know, this is a gift from God, the way He’s using it, but also because of the way you are responding. That’s the thing about the storms of life. They come, and the key is, how do we respond to them. Billy?
Billy: Simmons, how many people, how many men come to you at the top of their game, everything is wonderful, kids are great, grandkids are wonderful, I’m making tons of money, houses, I’m king of the hill, but gee, I’m coming to you, Simmons, because something ain’t right?
[Unintelligible comments and laughter]
RS: Well, usually, if somebody comes to see me for counsel, usually it’s because something has happened. It’s kind of like, Tim Keller says, usually you don’t find God when life is just kind of going along smooth. Usually, you have to be knocked to get your attention.
Unidentified audience member: Tell us, no one ever comes to him with a problem of…
RS: They never say they have a problem with their money. We’ve never had anybody come and say, I really have a problem with loving money too much. Guys, if we really see life through the lens of John 3:27, when success and good things come into your life, it will keep you humble, because you will give the proper credit where it’s due, but if you also see life through the lens of John 3:27, when the storms enter your life, it will keep you from shaking your fist at God and getting angry and bitter. And also, I would say, it’s a real source of peace when you can step back and say, Lord, I know you’re using this in my life, and I thank you for it. That’s radical, that’s counterintuitive, and nobody would think to approach the storms that way, but that’s very Biblical. Now, we’ve got to move. We’re behind. We’ve got to keep going; we’ve only got 15 minutes left. Verses 28 through 30. Jimmy, you want to read those for us?
Jimmy: “You yourselves can testify that I said, I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent ahead of Him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom; but the friend who attends the bridegroom, waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. The joy is mine and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”
RS: He must become greater, I must become less. We talked about this in John 1 about three weeks ago. You know, you see the true humility of John. John knew his purpose. John served his purpose. He played his role. And he says, now, it’s time for me to step aside. But, you know, guys, this is very difficult. For men to step out of the limelight. Even when the time comes. That was a problem we had in our company, back in the 1990s. Our CEO up in Richmond, it was time for him to retire, everybody knew it. But he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to step out of the limelight.
I had lunch with a guy this week and we got to talking about this, and he said, and this guy has done very well for himself. He did a joint venture with a guy over in Atlanta, and he was telling me about it. It may have been a real estate, I don’t know what it was, but he said, my friend who is very wealthy, he told me, don’t ever retire, and don’t ever sell your business. And he said, why? And then he said, well, you know, I sold my business, took all the money out of it. He said, but you know what’s happened? Now that I’m retired, now that I’m no longer out in business, nobody returns my phone calls. And he was dead serious. So he said, don’t ever quit. Don’t ever stop, because they’ll never return your phone calls. In fact, he says, the guy went back and bought another business so he would feel important. People would return his phone calls.
You see, part of the human condition, guys, is to love the limelight. To love to be noticed. To be applauded. To be important. And a verse that God has really used in my life is Matthew 23:5, and I’ve read Matthew many times, but I just stumbled upon this recently when I was reading through Matthew, and it says this. “The Pharisees do all of their deeds to be noticed by men.” In other words, what motivates the Pharisees? They want to be noticed by men. Think about how true this is of the human condition. I had a woman share with me, she was lamenting, she said, my daughter is starving for attention, and that’s all she does, is put up stuff on, not Facebook, Instagram. Do ya’ll know Instagram?
Unidentified audience member: Negative.
RS: Well, the teenagers do, because they put stuff up because they want to be noticed. And this is why, guys, we need to pray regularly. This is what I pray regularly. Lord, I pray, first of all, Lord, I commit my public relations department to You. You are in charge. I don’t need to try to promote myself. Lord, help me to keep my deeds in secret, not like the Pharisees to be known, but in secret. And Father, make me aware when I’m out there trying to promote me. Show me, convict me. Comments or questions?
RS: Okay, last thing. In these 20 verses that you’ve been reading, there is a common theme. Is everybody back in John 3? If you look at John 3:16, everybody knows John 3:16. We just like to focus on the fact that God so loved the world. But, do you know what this verse is really about? It’s telling us how not to perish. Look at it. Then you go to verses 17 and 18. It says, for God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned. But whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. Then go to verse 36. What does He say in verse 36? Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
Now, I need to mention this if you haven’t heard me share this. There is another word that’s used a lot in the book of John, and that’s the word “believe”. But “believe” in the Greek means something completely different from the way we use it in English. “Believe” in English means “mental assent”. It’s really about the mind, but the Greek word for believe in John 3:16 and John 3:36 is the Greek word “pisteúō”, which means not only do you believe something, but you, in fact, entrust yourself to. It’s like believing in your doctor, who tells you you’ve got a disease that he can cure, and you say, I believe in you doctor, and I entrust my life into your care. That’s what believe means, but if you go back in time, you go back a hundred years ago, maybe even 75 years ago, you know, belief in eternal condemnation was easily believed. Modern people have a hard time with it. How can you have a God of love and a God of fury or a God of wrath or a God of anger? It’s like you would think these two characteristics seem to be opposed to one another. But, in reality, guys, they establish each other. In fact, they are meaningless apart from each other, because He’s both a God of love and a God of wrath.
Tim Keller says, these two characteristics really meld together. His fury is always a loving fury, as His love is also a furious love. This is our problem. In trying to understand fury and loving anger, we have a hard time, because the anger we understand best is our own anger. And usually, our anger is not real pretty. Our anger is what the Bible calls, usually, unrighteous anger. We get angry when we don’t get what we want in life. And usually, our anger is released against those who are preventing me from getting my way, including when you’re out driving on the highway. Somebody cuts you off. You see, I think we have such a false understanding of God, and, in part, just because of our limitations. But, what’s so crucial to understand is that God’s wrath is actually an expression of His love for truth. His wrath is an expression of His love for His people and creation. And finally, God’s love and wrath, both are satisfied and come together, and they meet at the Cross. And this is important as we are entering into the Season of Lent, as we approach Easter. Really understanding how God’s fury and anger and wrath come together with His love and they meet at the Cross.
Now, let me stop and ask this question. We live in a time where people just, all the emphasis is on God’s love. And sometimes, you need to ask yourself, ask somebody this question, and really, how do we know He’s a God of love. I mean, does history tell us?
You see, you don’t read about a God of love in the Koran. Years ago, I read the Koran. There is nothing to mention about loving, or loving God, or Allah being a God of love. The Hindu holy writings, the Bhagavad Gita, there is no God of love. Of course, Buddhism, they don’t believe in God, so, there is no God of love. You see, over the century, guys, human society has had a good understanding that he is a God of wrath, who is righteous, and put down rebellion, and holds up the law of righteousness. But, who came up with this idea of a loving God, a forgiving God, a merciful God, a God who will forgive people who are terribly wicked. Where did that come from? It came from one place. It came from one person. And that is the God of the Bible.
And so, it’s important to step back and realize, what does it mean, His love and His wrath? God is a God of standards. He’s a God of law. He’s also a God of justice. Justice is the foundation of his throne as we’re told in Psalms. God does not, can’t compromise on His justice. And Keller says, and gives this illustration. Think about it in these terms. You’re a manager of a bank. Somebody comes in and robs your bank at gunpoint and takes all the cash. How do you feel towards that person? But contrast that with how does the governor of the state of Alabama, or the state where you are, feel about that? You see, the governor says, this man has broken the law of the state. The state now bans him, the state is opposed to him, he can’t vote, he can’t have a business, he can’t…Keller calls it judicial wrath. It’s a settled opposition the state has until the debt is paid. You see, that’s not a problem as humanity. We want to live our lives our way. We want to be our own masters, which leads to law-breaking, and God is opposed to us until the debt is paid. You see, God’s wrath arises out of love of righteousness and of justice, which is inherent to his very being, and He can’t compromise that. And, just to get a good glimpse of this, I’ll leave you with a great illustration, and I want you to listen to it carefully, because it’s very powerful and it’s very telling, and it struck me, I was thinking about it this morning, it really is a great teaching about Easter, or really, Good Friday. What took place.
So, let me read the illustration, and then kind of unwind. It comes from Norman Geisler. It’s called “The Judge”.
A young man is brought before a judge for drunk driving. When his name is announced by the bailiff, there’s a gasp in the courtroom – the defendant is the judge’s son! The judge hopes his son is innocent, but the evidence is irrefutable. He’s guilty.
What can the judge do? He’s caught in a dilemma between justice and love. Since his son is guilty, he deserves punishment.
That’s what Keller meant by “judicial wrath”.
But the judge doesn’t want to punish his son because of his great love for him. He reluctantly announces the sentence: “Son, you can either pay a $10,000 fine or go to jail.”
The son looks up at the judge and says, “But, Dad, I promise to be good from now on! I’ll volunteer at soup kitchens. I’ll visit the elderly. I’ll even open a home to care for abused children. And I’ll never do anything wrong again! Please let me go!
At this point, the judge asks, “Are you still drunk? You’ve got to be kidding me. You can’t do all of that. But even if you could, your future deeds can’t change the fact that you’re already guilty of drunk driving.” Indeed, the judge realizes that good works cannot cancel bad works!
In other words, good works cannot cancel out your sin.
Perfect justice demands that his son be punished for what he has done.
So, the judge repeats, “I’m sorry, Son. As much as I’d like to allow you to go, I’m bound by the law. The punishment for this crime is $10,000 or you have jail time.”
The son pleads with his father, “But, Dad, you know I don’t have $10,000. There has got to be another way to avoid jail!”
The judge stands up and takes off his robe. He walks down from his raised bench and gets down to his son’s level. Standing eye to eye next to his son, he reaches into his pocket, pulls out $10,000 in cash, and holds it out and offers it to him. The son is startled, but he understands there is only one thing he can do to be free – take the gift that his father is giving him. Take this gift. Because there’s nothing else he can do. Good works or promises of good works cannot set him free. Only the acceptance of his father’s free gift can save the son from certain punishment.
God is in a situation similar to that of the judge – he’s caught in a dilemma between his justice and his love. Since we’ve all sinned at one time in our lives, or many times in our lives, as you well know, God’s infinite justice demands that He punish that sin.
That’s judicial wrath.
But because of his infinite love, God wants to find a way to avoid punishing us. What’s the only way God can remain just but not punish us for our sins? This is what He’s got to do. He must punish a sinless substitute who will voluntarily take our punishment for us.
There are two requirements, he says.
Sinless substitute, because the substitute must pay for our sins; and it’s got to be voluntary. You can’t force Him to do it. He says voluntary because it would be unjust to punish the substitute against his will). Where can God find a sinless substitute? Not from us, but only from Himself. Indeed, God Himself is the substitute. Just as the judge came down from his bench to save his child, God came down from Heaven to save you and to save me from punishment. And we all deserve it, the punishment. Not the gift. But He gives us the free gift.
You see this is Jesus. You see how torn He is. You look in Luke 19:41, you see Jesus, come look over Jerusalem, and He weeps. He weeps. He says, if only this day you knew the things that pertain to your peace, but now they’re hidden from your eyes, you don’t see it, you’re blind to it. And, in Luke 13, Jesus says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I’ve wanted to take your children to myself like a hen who takes her chicks under her wings. But now they’re hidden from your eyes. You’re blinded to all of this. You love the darkness instead of the light.”
You know, Jesus is outraged over their sinfulness and their rebellions, but on the other hand, he weeps, and says, what can I do. I feel like a mother hen who wants to just gather you up. I’ll leave you with this, guys, we’re out of time. One of my favorite words to describe what God has done for us is in two verses in the New American Standard, and it’s the word “rescue”. In Colossians chapter 1, verses 13 and 14, it says, basically, “He came to rescue us, and deliver us from the domain of darkness.” But in I Thessalonians 1:10, listen to this, guys, and we’ll close with this, “Jesus came to rescue us from the wrath to come.”
He came to rescue us, but you know, this is the deal. You have to want to be rescued, and I guess to want to be rescued, you have to realize that your life is in peril.