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Friday, 6 August 2010

God of Judgement; God of Love.

Recently someone put this argument to me, though it was not the first time I have heard it:

The Bible seems to shift between how it presents God: in the Old Testament he comes across as a God of judgement, vengeance, fire and brimstone; while in the New Testament he seems to be the other extreme, of kindness, love and peace.

Then they went on to say:

It's all about control: the people who invented Judaism in the Old Testament times lived in a harsher, less civilised world and their God fitted in with that so that the people could be controlled by the religion. In New Testament times, the Romans introduced a more civilised way and the religious people changed the idea of God to fit with the times in order to control the people.

Interesting idea, on the surface, but a complete reading of the scriptures soon proves this idea unfounded. Unsurprisingly many people have this misconception about God's nature. I guess if you've only been to a handful of church services, if you listen to the media's portrayal of God and if you have seldom read the Bible, how could you think otherwise?

The Bible teaches us that God is consistent in character throughout: he does not change. Malachi 3:6 states "For I the LORD do not change", and if you wanted a New Testament verse (though the whole Bible is God's word), then read Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

Now I'm sure many could quote passages from the Old Testament about God in judgement, as well as quoting from the New Testament that God is a God of love (of course God is both of these things, but he is not solely one in the Old and another in the New), but here are some scriptures which demonstrate that, on top of this, God is loving in the Old and of judgment in the New.

Firstly consider the Old Testament scriptures: in Genesis 1:28, as soon as God has made man, and before he does anything else to them, he blesses them, demonstrating his kindness from the offset. How about Exodus 34:6 "The LORD passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.", which actually portrays God as both judging and loving. Psalm 100:5 "For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." Read Psalm 136, the whole of it, because every other line is "His steadfast love endures forever", how could a people not loved, but only judged, by God write something like this? There are many more such passages.

Secondly, let us deal with the New Testament. God's love is so evident here, but he also casts judgement as required. In Luke 11:37-52, Jesus gives a blistering rebuke to the religious people of the time. Consider Luke 19:27, a verse at the end of a parable which tells of a nobleman (symbolic for God) entrusting his servants to invest his riches, stating "But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me." Acts 5:1-12 tells the story of Ananias and Sapphira who collapsed dead after lying to the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 4:1 describes Jesus as judge, as does 1 Peter 4:5. Finally the book of Revelation is filled with passages of the coming judgement of Christ as he returns, such as Revelation 6, 14:14-20 and chapter 16, to name a few. A brief aside, notice how John sees Jesus in Revelation 1: 14-16, a God of true matchless awesomeness, not Jesus meet and mild, "The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength." Again, these are but a taste: search the scriptures which are full of such examples.

In response to the idea that religious people changed the idea of God to suit the times, let me say that God is not an idea that is modified. God revealed himself to us through Jesus (see Hebrews 1:1-3) and the people who wrote about Jesus were his first disciples such as Peter, John, James who wrote books in the New Testament about Jesus and how he had revealed himself to them. Paul, who met Jesus after his ascension on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, wrote much of the New Testament. Most of Jesus' first disciples, and Paul were put to death for preaching Christ. Clement, an early Church father, wrote to the church in Corinth about Peter's death at the hands of Emperor Nero; traditionally, it is believed that Peter was crucified upside down. The point is this: Jesus followers in the First century had the choice to abandon their faith in him, or, in many cases, die an unpleasant death: they chose the latter. If they made it up (remember, they were the ones who wrote about him) why would they die for what they knew to be a lie? Of course they didn't die for a lie, because it isn't a lie, but the truth of God.

I leave you with a quote from the song Creed by the Christian band, Third Day.

I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Marriage and Jesus

Last Bank Holiday weekend I was at a wedding. Amongst the other things at a wedding that I love, the thing that stands out the most to me is something in the vows:

I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage.
With my body I honour you,
all that I am I give to you,
and all that I have I share with you,

What a vow. I liken it to my relationship with God. When you give your life to Jesus, you are in effect saying these things. You honour him with your body and surrender all you are to him. You see, he did that for us. Abandoning his majesty (Philippians 2:7) he came to Earth, giving himself fully to the work of the Father (John 4:34) and dying on a cross to make us right before God. Rising from the dead, ascending to God's right hand and pouring out the Holy Spirit, He gave us everything: we should give him nothing less.

When a man and a woman marry, they abandon their singleness and give themselves fully to each other. Jesus gave everything for us and he keeps giving. What will you give to him?

Friday, 23 October 2009

Friday, 18 September 2009

New blog!

My wife has started blogging now. She'd love you to have a read and leave a comment.

Here's the link:

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

"...because you have obeyed my voice"

"...and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice" Genesis 22:18

What precedes this verse is a thoroughly moving account of how God tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his son. I'm not going to get into the detail of that now. Suffice it to say that God never wants Abraham to actually sacrifice his son; instead this is a picture of how only God himself will provide the lamb, that is Jesus, who takes away our sins.

What I really want to emphasise here is that the nations of the earth shall be blessed through Abraham's obedience. I think these days we downplay obedience. I see this outworked in the school where I work: obedience just isn't the done thing. But from this passage it seems that obedience unlocks further blessing.

Now I use the term further because it is clear from elsewhere in scripture that God blesses because of nothing we do to earn it. In Genesis 1:28 we read that the first thing God does after he creates man is to bless them. God's character is the bless us because he loves us!

But I believe that there is a key to unlocking further blessing and that is when God tells us to do something then we should do it. Abraham obeys God and so all nations will be blessed! Genesis 12 shows us that God has already blessed Abraham, so this is further blessing.

In practice, we need to recognise where God has spoken to us in our lives and do what he says. Has he told you to help someone in need? Help them. Has he told you to move to a new area? Move there, trusting in him. Has he told you to pray for and lay hands on the sick? Then pray for them. There are many situations I could list - [insert yours here].

Obey and be blessed!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Sow, sow and sow some more!

I've been thinking over a Bible verse for a few weeks, on & off. It's a promise, one that I believe, and has practical application. It reads:

"And he (that is, God) will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous." Isaiah 30:23

God gives rain to water our seed when we sow it, and the produce will be of good quality and quantity. Where do we acquire this seed?

"He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness." 2 Corinthians 9:10

God gives us the seed as well. What an amazing God! He gives us the seed and he waters it so it will grow and multiply.

Now this applies to more than agriculture. What else can we sow? We can sow a smile to our neighbour, a handshake, a friendly conversation, a prayer for the needy; but we can also meet that need by sowing our time and finances. We can sow a scripture or word of encouragement to build people up; we can prayer for healing by the laying on of hands.

So what should our response be? Sow, sow and sow some more - for he will multiply it! Now is the time to sow and to see a harvest of righteousness, finance, health and souls for the Lord!

Friday, 5 June 2009

It started with a walk...

The date: Wednesday 11th May 2005.
Location: Durham, the Neville's Cross area.
Event: Mel and I went for a walk which culminated in the beginning of our relationship.

The date: God knows.
Location: Eden
Event: God walks with Adam and Eve and has wonderful intimacy with them (until that snake came along).

My relationship with Mel started with a walk. My relationship with God is a walk of life, eternal in quality and quantity.

Whenever I go for a walk with Mel it's because I love her, I cherish her company and I want to spend time with her. This is a mere shadow of how God thinks of us. He longs to walk with us so much. How much? Enough that he gave his only son for us (see my last post).

Maybe it's time you started a walk with God...

The date: Hopefully soon.
Location: Your heart.
Event: You start your eternal walk with God and never look back.