Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Sign of Trouble

Earlier this year, I did a post inspired by a church marquee that I passed while driving. I was critical of it, not because it was entirely wrong, but because the message was a bit careless. I’ll say now what I said then, it is difficult to make a polished theological point in such a small space. Churches do have a responsibility to try, though. It is a dangerous game to play fast and loose with the truths of God.

What Does God Love?

The reason I bring this up is because I have seen another of these marquee messages that is not quite up muster. It was at least at a different church, so at least I do not have to feel like I am targeting anyone. And once again, I will not name them. I just have to point out the error they made in the hope that people will see it here and learn the truth. The message in question this time around was,

God loves me, faults and all.

Now, I have to be careful here, which is why I love the article format. If you are new to faith or are simply seeking answers about spiritual things for the first time, then it might be off-putting to hear there is something wrong with this statement. It is, after all, innocuous and comforting. So, in an effort not to pour too much cold water on the spark of anyone’s belief, allow me to start with what this idea gets right.

God's Love for Us

I love God’s word, something I hope I have made abundantly clear in my work here at Quest Forums. There are so many things of beauty in it, and it is constantly opening new paths of thought and devotion. One of the places in it that I and many other Christians are regularly drawn to is Rom. 5:6–11. In it, Paul says,

For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. How much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, will we be saved through Him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.

This is the most important thing that anyone will ever tell you, and once we know it, it is the most important thing we can remember. No one can go through life focused on their faults, but neither can they deny that they have them. When we take the time to consider our flaws, we realize How much trouble we have brought upon ourselves. When we lie and cheat, hurt and destroy, we prove that we are broken and our choices lead to pain for ourselves and those around us.

The Bible goes one step further to say that we have not only hurt ourselves and others, but that we have also offended God. Our Creator made us to behave in a way that reflects His perfect character, but we have fallen from His will and defy it, instead. We make ourselves His enemies. And what can the enemies of God expect other than destruction?

Thank God that it does not stop there. Though we have all hated God, He did not stop loving us. Even as we were in the midst of our depravity, His first response was not anger. It was brokenheartedness. He was so grieved by our blind wallowing in self-destruction that He made a way to reclaim us. His justice would be satisfied, but it was paid through the giving of Himself. The death of Jesus on the cross was done for people totally unworthy of it, and only through it can we be made worthy of relationship with God. It is not about us, but what God makes us. When we realize the penalty we owe and the price that was paid for it, we can only react with awe.

God's Hatred for Sin

The marquee that I saw captures a part of this. But it also misses an important part, which is what makes is so dangerous. It suggests that God loves us for our faults. The truth of Scripture is that He loves us in spite of them.

You see, there is a watered-down form of Christianity that teaches people we are all right just as we are. It says that God does not find fault, or that, like a kindly grandpa, He is willing to turn a blind eye with a sly smile. In this weak mockery of the faith, we do not have sins. We have “foibles” and “quirks.” It is possible the church where I saw this even believes these things.

You might ask, what is the problem with it? I would ask, where is the power in it? What hope does it hold? What chance of altering someone’s destiny? People who are told they are all right have no reason to wonder if they are going wrong. They are confirmed in their choices and so persist in them, seeing themselves as generally good and giving no thought to the consequences of their enmity with God. In other words, they see no reason to seek the forgiveness that is the only way for them to be saved.

A church that encourages this mindset, thoughtlessly or willfully, is doing the work of Satan rather than the work of the Lord. They are leading people to death. Think of it this way. Suppose you were out walking on a cold winter’s day and happened to come across someone suffering from hypothermia. The temperatures have resulted in them becoming disoriented, one of the late symptoms of which is a feeling of warmth and a desire to remove what remaining clothes they have on. Would it wise to tell them that is a good idea and encourage them to strip down? Or would it be better to warn them and try to get them somewhere warm?

The first option would be absurd, but it is essentially what happens when Christians suggest that God has no issue with people and accepts the “full package” of who they are. Understand that no, He doesn’t. He was willing to suffer and die in order to do away with that part of you. It’s offensive to suggest otherwise.

I’ll say once more that I do not know where this church is coming from. Regardless of their motives, they do not realize they are leaving people out in the cold with nothing more than the illusion of warmth. We have to do better than that. We have to warn people and invite them into the true light of God’s grace. He does not love our faults. He paid for them. To say anything less than that is to dilute the gospel to the point of worthlessness.

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