by Linda Rex
In my last blog I asked the question, when a chronic sinner who deliberately chooses to live in sin faces the Son of God in glory, will they be found to be in Christ? What happens when someone willfully sins and turns away from God’s grace? This is indeed a question worth wrestling with.
Reflecting back on my days as a former legalistic lawkeeper, I recall that I often read the law of God in such a way that I believed I had to do everything in it so that I would be good enough and God would not be angry with me. I believed that when Israel didn’t keep the law, she was punished by having to make sacrifices and kill animals and do other things to appease God’s wrath. I also believed that Jesus came to take away God’s anger towards me because of the bad things I did and do. I lived in an ongoing state of guilt and shame, constantly asking God to forgive me and to accept me.
Unfortunately, this is a misunderstanding of the nature of God and his holiness and the nature of the work Jesus Christ did in his life, death and resurrection. When we read the Bible, we begin not with humanity but with God in Christ. Jesus Christ is central to understanding anything that we read in the Bible, including the chapters on the law, the prophets, and so on. This is because Jesus Christ is God who took on human flesh for our sakes. And Jesus Christ revealed the nature of God to us as Father, Son and Spirit who live in oneness of love and unity the church fathers called perichoresis. Perichoresis is best understood as ‘making room for one another’, meaning mutual indwelling. The holiness of God is a purity, beauty of oneness and equality in unity that is love.
The love of God is not like our human love of eros, which seeks its own satisfaction, or philo love of friendship and companionship. It is agape, a love which as God has demonstrated is best expressed through self-denial, laying down one’s life for another, and through the death and resurrection of oneself on behalf of another. This is true holiness and is what Jesus, in his life, death and resurrection has brought us up into—in union with God in himself, in communion with God in the Spirit.
The law was merely a shadow of these spiritual realities. The law doesn’t tell us what to do so we can be good enough to be in relationship with God. What the law does is describe what it looks like when we live in union and communion, in holy love, with God. Israel was given the law as an expression of life in harmony and communion with the God who had called her his own. The sacrifices were given to Israel as a way to restore this love relationship when she lived out of harmony with the God who loved her.
Jesus Christ came so that the law would no longer be external to humanity, but would be written on human hearts. This means that through Christ in the Spirit we receive God’s nature, his very self within, so that we desire to live in relationship with God in union and communion with him. This is a gift from God to us as human beings. In Christ, each of us as human beings has been perfected and we participate in that perfection as we live and walk in Christ. God is making us holy—bringing each of us into a deeper relationship with himself in Christ by the Spirit.
But God does not violate our free will. We are given the freedom to live in harmony with the will and nature of God or in opposition to it. We are all included, but we can live as though we are not included. We are all given this gift of life in Christ, but we can choose to live as penniless paupers. We do have that choice.
But God’s passionate love toward us will not allow anything less than our inclusion in his life and love. His wrath (the same word used for passion) is toward anything that would separate us from him—it’s not against us. He is absolutely and completely for us. It’s against all that is evil and unloving—anything that stands between us and him or holds us captive. The fire of his love will burn away anything that will mar his perfected creation. He is making us holy.
Someone who chooses to live as though he or she is not included in the life and love of God will experience the passionate love of God as “fearful expectation of judgment.” In our hearts we know when we are living in opposition to our true selves.
We can be blinded by the evil one to the true reality of God’s love and live as though God were someone he is not. Sadly, we often do this and suffer the consequences of living out of ourselves instead of living and walking in the Spirit. How often I have met people who see God as being someone he is not! And so they live in fear and in condemnation instead of in the love and blessing God created them for and called them to in Jesus Christ.
So a new question arises. Will we live as enemies of God or as his children? If we choose to live as enemies of God, what will be the consequences of our decision? For nothing can stand against God and not be consumed by the fire of his love.
Holy God, thank you for your love for us that is so complete and so glorious. Thank you for not leaving us in our rotten sinfulness, but for giving us yourself, perfecting us in Christ. Thank you for your faithful love, that you will not give up until all are included in your life and love. Grant us the grace to live in gratitude all our lives for your gift of life in your Son Jesus Christ. In his name we pray. Amen.
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Heb 10:1
But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Heb 10:12–14
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Heb 10:26–27