There was a time when we were bombarded by a one-sided view of God as an angry deity, ready to throw people into the open fires of Hell. People complained about too much hellfire-and-brimstone preaching.
But when was the last time anyone has heard a hellfire-and-brimstone message? Sadly, the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” that Jonathan Edwards preached in 1741 would not be allowed in many churches today.
Many people have gone too far in the other direction, teaching that God is an all-loving, benign, supreme being that doesn’t seem to have any opinions about the way we live. The assumption is that as long as we’re true to ourselves, then it’s okay with Him. He accepts us the way we are.
We like the qualities of God such as love, forgiveness, and compassion and the incredible fringe benefit of eternal life in Heaven. On the other hand, we’re appalled by a God of holiness who desperately loves us yet requires repentance as well as trust, a God who promises to judge those who refuse to come to Him on His terms.
Others look at God as some kind of pagan deity who simply needs to be appeased. They think that if they go through religious rituals, they’ve done their part and they can build up credit for sinning that week. People can follow that god as much as they want. But that is not the God of the Bible.
When we start picking and choosing the things about God that appeal or do not appeal to us, we are not only diminishing our view of who God is but also believing and teaching a false gospel.
Some preachers today offer weak, watered-down proclamations in the name of the gospel. They tell you to believe, but they don’t tell you to repent. They tell you there’s a Heaven, but they don’t tell you there’s a Hell. And they tell you there’s forgiveness, but they don’t tell you there’s repentance.
If we don’t include those things, then it isn’t the gospel. We cannot edit the gospel according to what we like or don’t like. It’s for us to share it as God gave it. Otherwise, we strip the gospel of its power and effectiveness.
We cannot control what happens in the world. But at the same time, we cannot allow the belief system of a secular society to influence the way we believe. The idea is not to conform ourselves to the world’s way of thinking. It is not to bend the Bible to the culture.
When we desperately want to please everyone and not offend anyone, we will fail to make an impact on our culture.
When we start tampering with the essentials of our faith such as the Bible, the gospel, and the nature of God Himself, we are making God into a different image.
The God of the Bible does love us and accept us as we are. But the God of the Bible also wants to change us. He wants to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ.
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