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God's Love And The Soul That Sins Will Die
by Cheryl Toepfer
12/08/2014 / Salvation
"All you need is love, all you need is love, all you need is love, love is all you need." These lyrics are quite familiar to the baby booming crowd of the 1960's, lyrics that helped keep the Beatles at the top of the charts in 1967. While the song's three stanzas bear little relevance to it's repetitive theme, the chorus itself repeats the word love nine time in a row to seriously drive home the point that all one really needs is, well,...love.
While that may seem sadly unprofound to those who long to see life from a much less shallow point of view, it could honestly be said that the same lack of depth and the same emphatic appeal to man's ego is the calling card of much of the church in evangelical America today. In fact, the lyrics above are not too far from most that the contemporary church offers presently in the way of "worship" music. Without a doubt, "love, love, love, love is all you need" could be considered the mantra of Christianity as we currently know it. In fact, this gravitational pull towards teaching and preaching nothing but God's great love for man has left the professing body of believers in a state of spiritual malnutrition for lack of knowing and understanding other equally essential attributes of God's character and nature.
The apostle Paul spoke repeatedly of the importance of teaching the whole counsel of God, the importance of preaching the Word in and out of season, and the importance of teaching what accords with sound doctrine; but much of what calls itself Christianity at this point in time seems to be hung up on one very familiar truth: John 3:16a verse that even most of the unbelieving world out there can quote verbatim.
It is true that God is a loving God. It is His very nature to love, for He is love (1 John 4:16). Maybe the reason the world can remember and quote John 3:16 so well is because the mere twenty-four words that it contains has been quoted by those inside and outside the Church to a lost and dying world ad infinitum. But the section of scripture that contains the Bible's most famous verse has much more to tell the world than that God loves them. It also contains the hard truth that our God is also a God of wrath toward the soul that hasn't repented of sin and placed its faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. For that soul, judgment and eternal damnation await. Let's look at John 3:16 in its entire context:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."~John 3:16-21
After having read that verse in context, I'm sure we can all see why the world is only willing to remember and quote the first sentence. After all, who doesn't want to believe that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life? But this scripture clearly teaches that those who have believed the message of John 3:16 will live lives totally exposed by the light of Christsomething the wicked and unregenerate loathe to do.
Let's look at an Old Testament passage that describes that very same principle, showing the urgency of God's loving heart toward the disobedient and unbelieving:
"Behold, all souls are Mine. The soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine: the soul who sins shall die. But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all My statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn away from his way and live?
"Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, are My ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
"Therefore, I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn and live." ~Ezekiel 18: 4, 21-23, 27-32
Just what does God mean when He uses the word "die" in this passage? After all, we all know that those who repent of their sin and accept Christ as Lord and Savior, as well as those who reject Him, will all die a physical death. For those who may be unfamiliar with the biblical term "die" in relation to spiritual things, this certainly means a spiritual death. The phrase "to die in your sins" means to die in a state of unforgiveness by God. Without belief in Christ for the forgiveness of sins (this means we agree with God about our sin and we turn from it), we remain in an unforgiven state by God; and instead of receiving eternal life with God after our physical death, we are punished in everlasting torment in a place called hell. To enter this eternal place of torment, forever separated from God, is what it means to die in your sins.
Likewise, when God says He wants us to turn and "live," this, of course, means that through the regenerating power of God's Holy Spirit, we believe on Christ and His finished work on the cross, receiving by grace alone, through faith alone, forgiveness of sin, and empowerment by His Holy Spirit to obey His commands and do what is just and right. That is what God means in Ezekiel 18:31 to have a new heart and a new spirit!
What exactly is this place of torment, hell, like? The Bible gives us several picturesque images to help us understand the seriousness and severity of what it means to not take God at His word and to make the choice to spend eternity there. It's not a pleasant mental image, but one we must confront if we are to deal truthfully about this eternal option. We see in Matthew, chapters 8, 22, and 25, that unbelievers are "...thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Jude 13 calls it "the gloom of utter darkness." Mark 9:48 gives us a graphic image in that hell is a place "where their [the wicked's] worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." Jude 7 speaks of hell as undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Revelation 14:11 gives us this picture: "And the smoke of their [the wicked's] torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night." Daniel 12:2 says the wicked will experience everlasting shame and contempt. It is interesting that the above scripture in John 3 states that the unbelieving love the darkness rather than the light. So what is their just reward? More darkness. And yet it will be unfathomably more intense than our minds could ever imagine. Matthew 25:46 relates with absolute clarity that this punishment will be ongoing, eternal. Never ending. Please think on this carefully.
Truly, the greatest love God has shown us has not only been by the sacrificing of His one and only Son, but also by giving us the truth of His Word. In regards to John 3:16, yes, God does love us--so much that He came to earth as fully God, yet as fully man, dwelling on earth with sinful humans, though sinless Himself, to die a horrific death on a cross, bearing the wrath of God in our place so that we may have eternal life. This is certainly truth the world needs to hear. It's just that the whole story is not just about what God has done for us because He loves us so much. Rather, this passage says so much more because it teaches us about the nature of who God is. Jerry Bridges eloquently states in his book, The Joy of Fearing God, "...we should not exalt any of God's attributes above the others. All of them, in their infiniteness, are essential to His being. Take away any one of them...and God ceases to be God..." (97)
To overemphasize any one of God's attributes to the neglect of the others is a misrepresentation of God's character and nature. God's love and grace must be presented in the light of His holiness, His intolerance of sin, His perfect and complete justice, and His impending judgment for those who do not believe on His son, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins. Is He a God of mercy and grace? Most certainly. Is He a God of righteous wrath toward those who reject His Son? Absolutely. We must understand that our sin separates us from a holy God and that believing on the life, death, and resurrection of His son (which demands that we turn from our sin and live His way) is the only hope for salvation and rescue from eternal torment. We can go from being an abomination to being acceptable in God's sight by believing on what Christ has done on our behalf. Now, instead of being cast into outer darkness, we can one day hear Jesus say, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34).
And this is why we call the gospel the Good News.
For the church to emphasize God's love and proclaim His marvelous grace is truly an act to be commended. But those of us who believe must remember Jesus's command in Matthew 28:18-20 that when we as His disciples go make disciples, we are to teach them what we have observed Jesus teach in His word. If we are to truly make a genuine difference for eternity in the lives of others, we must give them the gospel that Jesus Christ Himself taught. All of it. Not just the parts that are easy to swallow. Not just the parts that aren't quite so awkward for those who might flinch and squirm under the truth. These include, but are not limited to, God's wrath, justice, and condemnation for those who reject Christ, as well as God's love, mercy, and overwhelming grace for those who repent and believe on His Son for the forgiveness of sin. Time is short--not one of us is guaranteed even the next few minutes--and the day is coming soon when we will come face to face with our Creator, and our eternal destiny will become an unchangeable reality. That will be a glorious event for some and a horrific tragedy for others.
It's a pretty intense leap from the wrath of Godto the love of God. While the unspeakable wrath of the Almighty is surely a reality, so is His unsurpassing love that compelled Him to send His Son to bridge that infinite gulf between sinful man and Himself. The truth of both sides of that gulf need to be equally emphasized so that the true nature of grace can be assimilated in the hearts of its hearers; for without the understanding of His hatred toward sin and the resulting consequence, grace ceases to be amazing and instead becomes an overused platitude to be abused and presumed upon. The greatest act of love we as Christians can devote ourselves to is gracefully confronting those we love with truth about eternity and the righteous demands of a holy God. Obviously, this will not always be easy or comfortable. Sharing the gospel in its entirety is certainly one of the most challenging tasks we face as Christians, but it is our call of duty.
Caring for the souls of our fellow man is the equivalent of true love. Go ahead. Tell the whole truth to someone today.
"But exhort one another every day, as along as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.""~Hebrews 3:13, 14~
Copyright 2014. Cheryl Toepfer is a homeschooling, cat-loving, coffee-drinking mother of four. Writing about the relevance and authority of Scripture excites, inspires and motivates her to use her composition skills to spread the gospel. Please drop her a line or two at: [email protected]
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