We live in one of the most advanced societies of all time. However, morally speaking, things have not really changed. In the first century, the Apostle Paul said, “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29-31) He was painting a painful picture of what happens when the human race refuses to acknowledge God.
Trying to help a family member or dear friend who has gone off the rails can be one of the most difficult things in life. They habitually make poor decisions, and you do everything in your power to try to help them. Yet, no matter how much you try, they keep making the same harmful decisions. You will always be there for them. You will wait for them like the father of the prodigal son, longing for the day of their return. But, also, like the father of the prodigal, you will let them go. You will give them what they want, to be left alone to do what they want to do, hoping that just maybe they will finally come to their senses, see their errors, and come home.
The real reason people refuse to believe in God is not logical, rational, or scientific. People simply refuse to open their eyes and see the fingerprints of God all around them. This was caused by humanity’s thinking becoming futile at the fall. Apart from God’s grace, humans no longer use their God given intellect for what it was made for – glorifying God – but instead use it to prop themselves up. Instead of giving God glory for the works he has done, they live as if God can be molded into their liking.
The truth about God has been made plain to even the most devout atheist. The invisible God has made himself visible through what you can see. You can think of this as the wind of a tornado. You cannot see the wind of a tornado, but when you see the cone-like shape touch the ground and cloud and debris circling around, you know to run. We can say something similar about God. You cannot see him directly – he transcends creation – yet you can see his fingerprints on his handiwork all around you.
You probably had textbooks in school. For me, they were bricks in my bag, but for many students today they might be a bit lighter and electronic. The textbooks in my day included a glossary in the back. Whenever a glossary term appeared in the text, they were bolded. Those bolded terms signaled to the reader, “If you don’t know what this word means, please look it up in the glossary.”
We need to do the same thing with the term “wrath of God,” which appears frequently in the Bible. Many have misread this term thinking it means that God flies off the handle from time to time, overwhelmed in a flurry of angry passion against you or me. However, if we look at how this term is used of God throughout the Bible, we find the term means something different.
Do you want a three-word definition of the gospel that even a two-year-old could remember? Jesus saves sinners.
If we are not sinners, the gospel message is not good news at all. It would be predicated on a lie, and Jesus would have died for nothing. That is why the Apostle Paul spends from chapter 1 verse 18 to chapter 3 verse 20 in his Letter to the Romans giving a preface to the gospel message. For just as the author of a book will state why he or she went about the effort of writing a book in the preface, so the Apostle states why the All-knowing, Almighty, and Holy God wrote the gospel into his eternal plan for restoring his world. It is as if the Apostle, like a specialist in precious jewels, lays down a black cloth, so that when he places the diamond of the gospel upon it, we will see it in all its multi-faceted splendor.
The Apostle Paul wrote the gospel “to bring about the obedience of the faith for the sake of [Jesus Christ’s] name among the nations (Romans 1:5; 16:26).” Many Christians have a reduced understanding of the gospel message. They see it as a ticket to heaven and little more. While the gospel comes for free to all who repent of their sin and receive both forgiveness from sins and Christ’s righteousness, it nevertheless makes demands on our lives. Those who receive it do not remain stagnant, simply awaiting the city of gold. The gospel takes root in them and begins to produce fruit now.
A well-known Youth Minister once told the story of the year his youth group decided to forgo their usual annual carwash fundraiser and instead offer car washes for free to anyone who wanted one. It was intended to demonstrate God’s grace, which comes to us through no effort of our own.
During the event, a man drove up, rolled down his window, and asked the Youth Minister, “how much?” Pointing to the sign, the Youth Minister said, “It’s absolutely free.” “Oh, I know how this works, buddy,” the guy quipped, “you say it’s free but you really want a donation; how much do you want?” The Youth Minister repeated, “It’s free, because God’s grace is free.” The man rolled up his window and drove away.
In the book of Job there is a lot of talk in the heavenly realm about humans on Earth. But what has changed is that now at this present moment our risen Lord in his physical self is talking to God the Father concerning his children (all of us), based on his experience as a human on earth.
As I sit at home with my wife under a stay at home order for our state I am grateful. Just a few short months ago the world went about its everyday routine at a frenetic pace, nothing could affect us (or so it seemed), we were – we thought – masters of our own fate. Now store shelves are empty, many things are in short supply and will become even harder to get. This virus, this disease we now call Covid-19 is seemingly the topic of most of our conversations and the focus of our day. Yet what we have is a forced slow down, a grinding to a halt of all economic and social systems.