Bill Muehlenberg of Culture Watch reminds us that God is not a cute and cuddly teddy bear. According to Muehlenberg we need only read Revelation 19:11-16 to understand that. Here’s what verse 15 says about the Lord Jesus:
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”
Whoa. Sounds more like a grizzly bear to me.
Today we rarely hear the Jesus of Rev. 19 preached. What we hear instead is that Jesus loves us, Jesus is our friend, He’s tolerant of our sins, He doesn’t judge and even though He created hell for unrepentant sinners, He’d never send anyone there except, of course, Satan and his demons. So is this the same God we find in the pages of Scripture? Let’s hear what Bill has to say….
We should all be trembling, and if we are not, we should be asking “Why not?” But trembling at what? And why? Let me tell you: trembling before the God who is there – the God who made us and who we are all called to give an account to. And I refer to the one true and living God, not an idol made in our own image.
The God of the Bible is certainly a loving and gracious God, but he is no pushover. He is not some compliant errand boy. He is not a celestial hippy. He is not a slightly bewildered grandfather figure. He is not a cosmic bell boy. He is not some sickly sweet wish-granter. Nor is he a jolly Santa Claus just waiting to give us goodies.
Instead, “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Because of this, “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). There are of course plenty of passages found in both Testaments describing the God with whom we have to do, and he is nothing like the one envisaged by so many today.
Far too many believers have simply stopped reading their Bibles and instead have drunk deep from the foolish nostrums of our age. Thus they have a defective view of God, a lousy view of humanity, and a dopey idea of what life is all about.
They have bought all the foolishness about tolerance, offending nobody, victimhood, and safe spaces. They think we should really only worry about one thing; never upsetting anyone or hurting anyone’s feelings. I get this foolishness from Christians all the time sadly.
For example, one person recently said something really quite odd on a social media site: “If you do a thematic study of distress and safety in the bible, you will find that God is deeply concerned with any feelings of distress or unsafety that are related to judgement or fear of judgement.”
Oh really? So hundreds of passages, including the two from Hebrews I cite above, do not belong in the Bible? Presumably so much of what Jesus said should not be there either. After all, he talked more about hell and judgment to come than anyone else.
He sure was not worried about hurting people’s feelings or intent on keeping the masses happy. He spoke tough words and made tough demands on all those who might follow him. Simply consider how he approached the rich young ruler. Jesus laid it on the line for this guy, and did not worry if he felt distressed or upset.
He made really rough demands on him, and did not seek to make him feel comfortable about himself. Indeed, we read that when “the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:22). I wrote this up further here: billmuehlenberg.com/2010/05/25/discipleship-making-things-difficult/
No, God is not all that concerned if we feel offended or upset or distressed. No, he does not want to set up little “safe spaces” for us to feel comfortable in. No, he does not sugar-coat the gospel message so that no one is offended or feels bad. No, he does not offer “trigger warnings” first before he speaks. No, he is not into letting us off the hook by making us feel good.
He wants us to repent of our sin and turn from our repugnant rebellion or face his just judgment. And he wants us to approach him on his terms, not ours. Getting back to the opening lines of this piece, the God we serve is a God that we should tremble at.
He is that sort of God. I recently went through the Bible and recorded the many times this one word is used: “tremble”. It is found quite often, so let me just offer some instances of it here. They make it clear what sort of God exists, and what he expects as he calls us into relationship with himself. Continue reading