David Westerfield

Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Tag: wrath

Staring into the Abyss of Wrath

“And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'” (Mark 14:34-36)

Reading through this passage this morning presented me once again with the awful reality of what Jesus was staring into in the garden, looking into the dreadful cup of God’s wrath that He would have to endure if we were to be saved. The Father’s justice had to be satisfied if we were to be counted righteous. What lied in that cup of God’s just anger is terrifying beyond all of the physical torment He experienced. Its contents more hopeless and painful than any situation we could find ourselves in upon this Earth. What lied in that cup was hell. And He drank it down to the dregs.

Jesus was stricken for our sins, smitten and afflicted on our behalf, as prophesied in Isaiah 52:13-53, amongst other places. Jesus was looking into being cut off from the land of the living, taking on the curse that rightfully should fall on us sinners, becoming the final sacrificial lamb for all time, that we may be made right with God through faith alone, apart from works.

And not only did He endure the curse for us, but He prevailed triumphant in the resurrection, raised to life and thus sealed the hope of our salvation. He defeated sin, death and hell. What love must this be that would motivate the God of the universe to become a man, to bear our punishment though guiltless in Himself, and take on the very judgment our sins deserved? What a wonderful Savior!

Sin is Divine Treason – It is Indeed a Fearful Thing

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” – Hebrews 10:26-31

“Sin is divine treason.” – Thabiti Anyabwile, from the Ligonier Conference, speaking on the divine treason of sin in light of God’s holiness. How often do we really see sin as it is? I confess that I just don’t many times because well, I’m a great sinner and am still blinded to a great amount of my own wickedness. We certainly don’t talk about sin like this nowadays, even in church where we should be. Sin is treason, divine treason. Think about the seriousness of treason at the political level. You can be thrown into prison for life or worse, executed for committing this crime, because you, being a citizen of this country, are betraying her through your actions. Yet how much worse is divine treason against a holy, eternal God! And this is every sin! God has every right to punish all of us to hell for eternity. He would be right and just to do so. And yet in great mercy, Christ condescended of His own free will and choice in order that we would be rescued, not because we were worth it or even wanted it or even saw our need for it, but because He is Amazing.

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Jesus As Judge

This isn’t a portrayal of Jesus we like to ascribe to Him very often because, frankly, it is terrifying. Tim Keller has concisely and eloquently said, “If we play down ‘bad’ or harsh doctrines within the historic Christian faith, we will find, to our shock, that we have gutted all our pleasant and comfortable beliefs, too.” And this is certainly true with how we envision Jesus. Jesus is fully God and as such He is the same God of the Old Testament. Yes Jesus is fully loving as clearly demonstrated in His very condescension to man, His whole life lived, His death, and His resurrection for sinners! Yet He is also fully just and is the very One who will judge the world. This seems to easily slip past us very often. There is simply no way to escape this picture in the Scriptures. And it’s either true or it’s not.

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Promises for Those in Christ in Romans 8

  1. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
  2. He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)
  3. All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
  4. The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26)
  5. We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
  6. Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
  7. Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)
  8. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
  9. Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? (Romans 8:33)
  10. Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)
  11. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:35)
  12. In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)
  13. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

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Our Judgment Landing on Christ

Tonight, I was reading through chapters three through five of Lamentations and Hebrews eight and I noticed a giant correlation between these chapters in both the Old and New Testaments. The lesson of Lamentations, or at least one lesson amongst many, is that God is serious about sin and its resultant judgment. If you test Him with your unrepentant sin, He will bring you to nothing, mercifully emptying you in hopes that you will see His faithfulness to keep you from pursuing that which injures the glory of God and thus you. Yet if you continue in it, He may be done mercifully intervening with trials that He means to move you toward repentance and faith and trust in Him and thus leave you to your sin. This is a frightening prospect and is in itself judgment.

This should give us great pause and reflection upon our own lives and the wickedness therein. We are depraved sinners, who, even in good things transgress His holy law with motives that are not set on exalting Christ and the glory of His grace in every way. We infinitely fall short of the glory of God. Praise Him there is mercy in Christ! But may we not be evil and abuse it to our detriment! We must be on our guard.

So the overall theme of Lamentations is that God does judge sin (being that the book was written in the aftermath of God’s punishment against Jerusalem), even in those He had made a covenant with. Yet He is faithful to those who mourn their sin and seek Him, who wait on Him to act in their hearts and thus turn from those things which displease Him, only by His power. He is faithful to forgive us our debts, yet He is a just judge who rightfully acts for His own glory and name (for what in the universe is there that is better to stand up for than the glory of God and His honor?).

In Hebrews, we have an excellent picture of Christ fulfilling the old covenant within the new. But before I get to that, we must understand the old covenant first. The old covenant, the very covenant that the people of Jerusalem had broken prior to God judging them, which happened right before the context of Lamentations, is where God said, “If you are faithful and perform all that I have commanded according to this covenant, things will go well with you; if you don’t, they won’t go well with you and I will inflict my wrath upon you (my paraphrase if you can’t tell).” And that is exactly what God does.

Prior to Lamentations, Jerusalem had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord and their hearts were far from Him, disbelieving Him and turning to worthless idols and wickedness. Therefore, in anger that the Lord slowly and patiently held back, not desiring to inflict wrath on them from His heart because He loved them, He waited no longer and punished them to defend the honor of His name. And this wasn’t just a quick deal. He inflicted wrath on them worse than that of Sodom! With Sodom at least the Lord consumed them with fire and that was it. But with Jerusalem, their pain and misery lasted a long time. And it was ugly. People died of starvation and even ate their own children, amongst other things. Yeah, it was bad. People that had lived in luxury were now begging on the streets and their children were starved with no where to turn. The Lord had brought them to nothing and they were the scorn of the nations.

The Lord takes His glory, honor and name seriously. He is just. This is little studied attribute of God these days, yet it is vital to get this before we can get His amazing grace. If we defile His glory and honor with our words, thoughts, actions, and deeds, He will consume us with His burning anger. Even now, in the time after Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, is this the case. He is the same now as He was then. This is very sobering and should display to us the unfathomable justice of His character and the utter wickedness and proneness to sin of our own hearts.

Yet, the whole reason Christ came was precisely because the old covenant with all of its regulations and stipulations, could never be upheld by mankind in order to attain salvation. We are a doomed people if we attempt to win favor with God through our religious working and toiling. Just look at Jerusalem in Lamentations!

But why is this so? Because by our works, even the best that we can offer for a lifetime of good deeds, cannot make us right with this just and holy God presented to us in Lamentations (who is the same God today). Our offense against God is infinite, so even one transgression is punishable forever. Yet how many sins do we commit every minute? “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). So without faith, even our good deeds are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

But Christ came and fulfilled the covenant from our side precisely because we were unable to. All religions, in some measure, say the exact same thing, just in different ways. “Do this to get right with God, or to become (a) god,” or some other variation. And in fact, the first covenant said something to this effect. Regardless, the message is the same. But in the Gospel that God had unraveled over the course of history, by the work of Christ, the Son of God becoming a man, He did everything perfectly on our behalf and even took the punishment that we deserve in Himself at the cross, and rose from the grave proclaiming victory over death – all this for those who believe and trust in Him alone.

Without Christ we are hopeless, just as Jerusalem was in Lamentations, save God’s mercy toward them. As Hebrews 8:7 says, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.” Indeed. Then as it says right before this verse in Hebrews 8:6, “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” And that promise is the hope of the glory of God for all eternity. Nothing can satisfy the human soul more. It is what we were made for!

The new and final covenant is a covenant in which instead of God telling us to do this and do that to get right with Him (as in the first covenant, the old one), Christ Himself fulfills and does it all perfectly on behalf of those who trust Him for salvation! And not only so, but He also takes the punishment that we earned for our wrong-doing against God in Himself on the cross, removing all obstacles between us and Him forever. And you think the picture in Lamentations of God’s judgment is dreadfully awful? We have absolutely no idea how infinitely and dreadfully awful the cross was for Jesus who experienced the wrath of God for us who believe in Him. And He did all this in love toward us, that we might glorify and enjoy Him forever, the very hope of heaven itself.

Christ is our only hope of salvation, for it is He who attained it for us. And this very grace in the Gospel is the only way to change from the heart and grow in His grace. May we turn to the Lord and seek His infinite grace to save and deliver us, both those who have yet to trust Him, as well as those who have.

It is Finished

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” – John 19:30

These are some of the most hope-filled, joy-inflicting, theologically deep words ever spoken by our Savior, for the edification of His people. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” we who love Christ have much reason to rejoice. Paul expounded upon this joy in Romans 5:6-11, amongst other places. With such force, Jesus makes a proclamation about eternally deep things that have just occurred upon the cross. What are these things? What is it that had been accomplished?

1. The wrath of God was satisfied.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding” (Psalm 111:10). God is holy. In American evangelicalism, it seems we have largely forgotten this aspect of God’s character, yet it pervades everything He does. Sermons are not preached on it though. Why? Because it is highly uncomfortable. We are a comfortable nation. We like things in bite-size chunks of information. We like positive, life-affirming messages, not dark, gloomy, terrifying messages. Yet as Tim Keller has said, “If we play down harsh doctrines, we will gut our pleasant and comfortable beliefs too.” God’s holiness makes us squirm, as it should. But we must not play it down, but proclaim it. The whole Gospel only makes sense when we see what it is we are being saved from. Merely preaching “God loves you” does no justice to the entirety of the Gospel we proclaim. The question is, “How has God loved us?” The Scriptures present all of this very clearly.

When seeing the holiness of God, Isaiah, one of the holiest men in Israel himself (who, if anyone had reason to stand because of righteousness, it was him), was shaken to the core of his being, riddled with fear, totally undone because of his own uncleanness in the presence of this holy, majestic, spiritually terrifying God who has always existed and full of infinite power that cannot be measured by any man. Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Isaiah, despite his holiness, was a sinner in the presence of the God of the universe that could crush him with a thought. This is the God we serve and should serve with a good level of reverential fear.

What does His holiness entail? Justice and righteous. It entails His Creator rights, to do whatever He wants with His own creation. God owes no one mercy. Isaiah got it. He knew he had no right to demand anything of God whatsoever. All he could do was fall on his face and beg for mercy because of His justice that should have squashed him. No one can tell God what He should or should not do. Job got it. At the end of the book, he put his hand over his mouth and said he had uttered things he did not understand against God. We throw the terms justice and righteousness around a lot in songs and in conversation, but what does it mean that God is just and righteous in relation to sinners, like us? It means that because of our sin, we should be thrown into the Lake of Fire described in detail in Revelation and spoken by Jesus in the Gospels more than any other person. These are not my words, they are Scripture and we must speak what it says boldly, without fear, yet do so in love.

Do we feel the weight of that in our souls, even as believers? Do you feel that bad off because of your sin? Consider how your sin has offended an infinitely holy God. Well we all should feel it, because the degree to which we feel our sinfulness and how much it has offended God on this infinite level, is the degree to which we will appreciate the work of the Gospel for us and specifically the words, “It is finished,” knowing that should have been us on that cross, for all eternity. Yet Christ, in His willing, submissive love, substituted Himself for those the Father had given Him before the world was made (John 6:37, Ephesians 1:3-6). Jesus drank the full cup of God’s just anger and wrath that had to be satisfied. And He did this in our place. So even as believers, though we have confident access to the throne of God through the blood of Christ, even when we sin, we should stand in awe and wonder that we have been spared an eternity of torment, knowing that by God’s choice alone and His doing in you (bringing you to faith by His power), we were spared by the work of Christ, not because of anything we’ve done past, present, or future, but simply because of God’s good pleasure to save us. Christ took God’s wrath in Himself upon the cross for us who believe. And after it was completed, He proclaimed these words, “It is finished.”

2. God’s name had been vindicated for having passed over former sins.

In Romans 3:25 we are told that, “God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God�s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Because God is holy, as discussed in the last point, he must damn sinners who come into His presence. He cannot just sweep our sins under the rug as many suppose. “Oh come on in you rascal sinner you.” No. The person who has offended an infinitely holy God must pay the penalty of eternal death. This is justice. Yet, how was God to maintain the honor of His name while forgiving sinners? How in the world is that possible? Only in the cross was this possible.

For God to let sinners pass into His presence without them being judged shows no regard for the most exalted, most valuable thing in all the universe: Himself, His name, His being. Therefore something had to be done. And that thing was the sacrifice of His own Son in our place, as our substitute. Only in the sacrifice of His own Son could God vindicate the justice and honor of His name for having passed over sins previously committed that had not been dealt with, while at the same forgiving sinners who through faith are declared righteous. So the cross was 1) for God, and then 2) for us. When Christ spoke those three words, God’s name, the highest value in the universe, had been preserved from being unjust, while at the same time, we sinners who slapped God in the face with our wickedness, were forgiven and declared righteous in His presence by the blood of Christ. Stand in wonder at such infinite power and yet infinite love displayed in the cross!

3. God’s people were justified.

Not only had God vindicated his own name and honor, declaring Himself to be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus … and not only had Jesus taken the wrath of God in Himself on the tree, taking the sins of all who would believe and willingly had them placed upon His own head, sins that were made His very own … but He also gave us His perfect record in exchange. When Jesus uttered those three words, we had been declared righteous in the presence of this just and holy God who should have destroyed us for all eternity. That was what we were owed. We earned wrath, it was the wage for our deeds. Yet we received mercy because of God’s great love for us from all eternity in declaring us pure and spotless, without blemish, because of Christ’s accomplishments and record before the Father.

When Christ said, “It is finished,” the Father now saw His people whom He foreknew (fore-loved) in relation to His own Son. The righteous standing He possessed before the Father is now our righteous standing forever. The emptying of Himself on the cross and the justification of our souls by His blood, making us to stand upright in the presence of God was now finally completed. No more would God be separated from His people. The work of Christ had finally been completed.

All of this together means that, as believers, on our worst day of Gospel-abuse (abuse of grace by sinning and taking advantage of God’s forgiveness) and God-dishonoring behavior, we are never so bad off that God’s eternal declaration that we are righteous will become null and void. Would you exalt your sin to the level of God by making the supposition that it is too bad for Him, in His infinite power, to forgive? We are His! Our fate was sealed in the cross before we were born, and in time He brought it to pass that we should be born again by His Holy Spirit and thus granted the gifts of faith and repentance. We should then mourn for the sin in our lives and how it grieves the Holy Spirit within us. Yet at the same time we should rejoice that our sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ, and when He said, “It is finished,” it was really done with! What hope!

But all of this also means that on what we perceive to be our best day, we have never arrived to a point where we do not need this Gospel grace. Isaiah 64:6 says that even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags, tainted with impure motives, though we do not realize it. We have competing affections in our hearts that moves us to idolatry even in those good works, whether idolatry of the approval of others or idolatry of how good we think we are now. As David Phillips used to say, we need to repent of our repentance, because many times even that is tainted with sin. On our best day, we should be very cautious that we pursue the mercy of God all the more in reverential fear, knowing that though God should have rightfully crushed us, yet He spared us. So do not become arrogant because of the grace you have received, as if you are a more righteous person over others, but stand in fear that the mercy of God did not pass you over and leave you in your sin, in order that you may be humbled in His presence and serve Him with a right heart.

4. The evil works of Satan and his angels was totally undone.

At the cross there were three points at which suffering was coming upon Him: by 1) the wrath of man, 2) the wrath of Satan, and 3) the worst, the wrath of God. But on this point in particular, the greatest Satanic attack ever devised and carried out was directed at Christ. Satan knew that if Jesus could be made to come down off the cross and disobey the Father, the divine plan would have been undone and Satan would have succeeded in his devious plans to thwart God. Yet Christ obeyed to the point of death, even death on a cross. He willingly submitted to the infinitely humbling terms of what Calvary meant for Him. And in doing so, Jesus triumphed over all the forces of darkness and made them a footstool for His feet. Just as Genesis 3:15 prophesied at the very beginning of man’s fall into sin, so it came to pass, that Satan bruised Christ’s heal on the cross, but Christ crushed Satan’s head by the cross, and sealed it in the resurrection. All the forces of wickedness could not hold down the Prince of Glory.

Satan has been defeated and he knows his time is short before the Day of the Lord comes and he is cast into the Lake of Fire. In the mean time, he seeks to devour and take out as many as he can by blinding the minds of unbelievers, keeping them in darkness, and keeping them from seeing the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ. May we pray for God to remove their blindness (whatever unbelievers are in your lives) and give them eyes to see Christ in all His magnificence, that they may be saved through God-granted, supernatural faith.

But for the believer, what eternal harm can be done to us by Satan? Paul said, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” Satan was undone and no longer could he hold the children of God in darkness by his evil works. All the frightening demonic possessions, influence of those in power over others, influence in destroying the church from within through destructive, heretical doctrines, and the torment inflicted by these workers of evil cannot keep God from saving His people. It has already been accomplished through the blood of Christ and nothing can stop Him from saving sinners. What a hope in evangelism!

“It is finished.”

What magnificent words coming from our Savior! Volumes and volumes could be written going into detail about all of the aspects of what was accomplished in the cross and in the resurrection, in the entirety of the Gospel itself even. At the end of John’s Gospel in the last verse of the last chapter, he says, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). The same can be said of what was accomplished for us at Calvary. The depths of God’s justice and power are clearly seen. So also His love and infinite mercy are perceived, that He would save anyone at all. We see how awful we are sinners that it would take the sacrifice of the Son of God to save us, and yet we see how much we are loved at the same time. And wow, the number of books that have been written over the course of church history concerning the work of Christ in His life, death, and resurrection is staggering. What amazing resources at our disposal! www.monergismbooks.com … get to reading! 🙂

May we all revel in the Gospel and what was accomplished in it for us, meditate on its implications for our lives, and because of it, be enabled and moved to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love all those in our lives just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us. Jesus said these things were the summing up of the whole law in the Old Testament, that is, loving God with every facet of your being and loving your neighbor as yourself. But we as sinners are incapable of doing this in ourselves. And so Christ Himself came and fulfilled the law on our behalf so that we can now do it to His glory, by His power working in us! Only the Gospel’s power enables us to do that which God commands of us.

John Owen said, “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.” We are dependent upon Him not only for every breath, but to do anything to His glory and honor. We are dependent upon Him even for our faith, from beginning to end. As broken sinners, how desperate are we for Him? Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). I pray we would believe and feel that. Fall on your face and rejoice for the mercy provided and completed for us through Christ! It is done! What freedom!

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