God's Wrath is Beautiful

About 11 years ago I was at a preaching/fellowship conference where I didn't know anyone, but I went because I had heard it was supposed to be really good. I was penniless and in college, but found some strangers, that were also going, to ride with to Metropolis, IL, about five and a half hours away. I stayed in a hotel with four other girls I didn't know, which was really reaching for me, since I was extremely introverted at the time, almost afraid of my own shadow. It wouldn't be reaching to say, though, that the weekend had one of the most profound impacts on my life. My theology was shaken and solidified, and God became very big to me. 

Although there were at least a couple sermons that I count as the best I've ever heard at that conference, the one that totally changed my thinking was by Charles Leiter, called "The Wrath of God." Charles eventually became my pastor, due in large part to that sermon, but I had never heard of him at the time. It's strange to think that God's wrath can be seen as a beautiful thing, but that sermon made me fall more in love with God. It made me see him as extremely big and worthy. It made me want to cover my face like the angels in Isaiah 6, and say, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD Almighty."

Most of us are aware that God is love. Rob Bell, the famous theologian, likes to focus so much on God's love that he came to the conclusion there couldn't be an eternal hell. I think a lot of us, and our churches, subconsciously like to think in this frame of mind, and therefore rarely mention sin or avoiding it. Why would we serve a God that is hateful? That for sure isn't going to be seeker-friendly for our churches. 

And then there's the other side where "atheists" like to think that, if there is a God, He is cruel. Just look at the Old Testament, right? They like to twist and pervert God's wrath, taking all of the beauty out of it. To them, God is not worthy of any praise or devotion; He is tyrannical. Therefore, they couldn't believe in Him.

If we're honest, I think a lot of us lean so heavily on the "love" side, because we agree with the possible "tyrannical" view. If it's true that God sends "good" people to hell, that would not be a good God, right? So, we tell mourning family members that, "Maybe they are in heaven, who am I to say?" all the while knowing they lived the life of a hellion or never once mentioned Jesus' name. Our theology is bad, so we are gripping at straws, trying to hold onto the truth that God is good, while avoiding the subject of His wrath.

But I'd like to commend to you that God's wrath, viewed properly, is a beautiful thing. It gets the focus off of ourselves, and onto a very good and worthy God. It makes us ashamed for trying to deny it. It makes us want to use it as a witnessing tool with unbelievers, not avoid it. My opinion is, when the Spirit is at work, a right view of God's wrath on sin, because He is so worthy of our praise, is the very thing that's truly seeker-friendly (at least the ones that are seeking God, not just a fix). We have to agree with God that sin (that we all have) is worth punishing, otherwise, we're just drawing in people to feel good and be morally self-focused on their way to hell. Without portraying God's wrath, we don't do justice to His love, beauty, and worth.

Here's the sermon. Listen to it, and then comment, if you like. :) http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=112406224020


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