I was sitting in the small cafeteria of Gulf Coast Bible College in Houston, Texas when I read for the first time Johnathan Edwards famous sermon “sinners in the hands of an angry God”. Here is a quote from Edwards sermon, “God holds you over the pit of hell, much as one hold a spider over the fire, he is disguised, and is dreadfully provoked. His wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire. His eyes are so pure he can’t bear to have you in his sight.”
I take serious issue with the title, tone, and tact of Edwards sermon. I do not believe God holds you over the pit of hell. God is not disguised by you, nor is he dreadfully provoked. His wrath toward you does not burn like fire, and he fines you worthy of nothing less than heaven.
Edwards sermon reflects an ideology that has cast a shadow over the Gospel that has turned the good news into the bad news. I’m not sure when it happened, but the church has turned the God of redemption into a God who is punitive, angry, and willing to cast soul’s into eternal damnation. As I journal tonight I know some will misunderstand me, and some will even become angry with me, but I feel strongly that some need to read this confession and I can only hope it helps to set some free from the condemnation and rejection they have received by the Church.
We are not in the hands of an angry God, we are in the hands of a loving, redemptive, restorative Father. Does God get angry? Yes. But is it possible we have misunderstood the reason and object of God’s anger? What if the reason of God’s anger is to restore you instead of condemn you? What if the object of God’s wrath is not toward you, but toward the sin that causes you to fall beneath God’s glory in which you were created? What if God’s anger was an expression of his love and grace, then it would be good news instead of bad news, right? And God would be restorative instead of punitive.
One of my hobbies is restoring classic cars. As I begin the process of stripping away the paint to see what lies beneath I often discover a car with many scars and flaws of wear and tear. There will be rust, often times lots of rust eating away entire sections of the car. Now rust is the enemy of any car. You cannot restore rust. You can cover it up with body filler and paint over it, but it will return to the surface in a couple of years.
To truly restore a classic car you have to wrath the rust and cut out all the rust and replace it with new medal. You have to condemn the rust to restore the car. I want to say that again, you have to condemn the rust to restore the car. You don’t condemn the whole car, you condemn the areas of damage to restore the car. For the love of the car, a craftsman will hate the rust, the dents, and the flaws to make it a brand new flawless classic. The craftsman doesn’t hate the car, rather he/she loves the car. And it is out of their love for the car that they are willing to do the diligent work of cutting the rust out to restore or save the car. It is a work of art and a labor of love to remove all rust, dents, and flaws to restore a classic into a beautiful work of art. And if you are a car lover as I, then you get great pleasure in seeing a classic car beautifully restored as good or better than when originally made.
You are a classic that shows the wear and hurts of sin, and God is the master craftsman who loves to restore classics into brand new works of art. So out of His love for you, he wraths sin; and he cuts the sin out to restore you back to perfection. God’s wrath is God’s love on display to restore you back to your created glory!
So if you are still wearing a little rust it’s because God isn’t finished with you yet. He is still working on you. “I am sure that the good work God began in you He will continue until he completes it on the day when Jesus Christ comes again.” Philippians 1:6