“God can be wondrously angry with his children” – Kevin DeYoung
For the majority of my Christian life, I was taught and believed that God had anger towards me as a believer because of my sin. This lie (and make no mistake, it is a lie- straight from the enemy’s mouth) kept me in darkness, hiding from God. I was constantly fear stricken, ashamed at the notion of being God’s “red-headed stepchild with whom he was always displeased.” I was terrified of him because of the preaching that I had sat under. I honestly believed that He was just waiting to “have a word with me” about all of my sin the second I breathed my last. Oh sure, I’d still get into heaven…but first…sheer terror. This never sat right with me. While I wrestled with the fear, the gospel kept whispering through the corridors of my mind- and I couldn’t ignore the stark contrast of the two.
I presented the two ideas to my pastors, friends, guest speakers at church, anyone really- just trying to get an answer. “How can God still be angry with me- how can he be waiting to judge me as a believer if Christ said it is finished? How can he hold me at arms length when I sin if he says he remembers my sins no more and removes them from me as far as the East is from the West?” I was always met with blank stares, mumbles, and straight up “I don’t know’s”. The response that I got from my pastor’s wife would be the one that sent me in a tail spin. She said “Well, we still have God’s holiness to answer for.”
What? I still have to answer to God’s holiness?! How does that line up with the gospel when Jesus said “It is finished”? If Jesus’s perfect obedience to God in his life- which qualified him to be the perfect sacrifice to meet the demand of God’s holiness- wasn’t enough to answer to that holiness for me, how on earth is my piddly half-assed obedience to God going to ever answer for that holiness?
She didn’t have an answer.
God does. God’s answer to his holiness is Jesus. The reason that God turned his back on Christ at the cross? The reason that Jesus cried out, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Is because Jesus was answering to God’s holiness on your behalf, believer. Jesus took on every bit of your sin and mine on that cross. Past, present, future. ALL of our sin. He answered for every single one. He was forsaken by God for every single sin you or I could ever commit. He drank the bitter cup of God’s white hot anger towards our sin BONE DRY. There is no more anger left for you, or me. We will never answer to God’s holiness. To think that we ever could is a complete misunderstanding of our sin nature, of God’s holiness, of Jesus’ substitution- in short, it’s a misunderstanding of the gospel. Frankly, it isn’t the gospel at all.
The way these preachers spin this garbage, is that while you are justified before God (made right with him positionally) your relationship with him can be altered at any time based on your obedience or lack there-of. In other words, they make God’s relationship to us conditional. “God smiles at you when he sees you trying really hard to do the right thing.” The problem with a statement like this is that it assumes that God is okay with mere effort to do the right thing. Which means, that he is pleased with partial obedience. He’s pleased with works that our hearts aren’t into.
The truth is, God isn’t pleased with that at all. Jesus preached an entire sermon on the Mount that flies in the face of this idea when he brought the Law up so high it could never be attained. He took it to our hearts. “Ok, you haven’t committed murder. Cool. You ever been angry? BUSTED! UNQUALIFIED!” You want your works to answer to God’s holiness? Then they had better succeed that of the pharisees, who by the way were heavy on obedience externally and yet Jesus called them “white washed tombs”. Stumble in just one part of the law, ladies and gentlemen- you are toast, fully deserving all of God’s wrath towards your sin. That’s the standard. To say or suggest that God is pleased with our best stitch effort is complete insanity- no, stronger than that- it’s a LIE. God is pleased only with perfect obedience. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus was perfectly obedient in our place. The point of Christianity is not “do your best so God will smile upon you.” It’s “God turned his back on his son for all of your disobedience so that God will forever smile upon you.”
Oh, beloved child of God. God is not wondrously angry with you. On the contrary, he looks at you and sees his son’s perfect record of obedience. Which means, he’s wondrously pleased with you.