|Vol. 16 No. 6 June 2014||
Gary C. Hampton
A fresh start is sometimes more than desirable, it is a necessity. Circumstances may require us to abandon our old ways and begin anew. Lessons learned, both good and bad, invite modifications in attitude and action. Challenges once in the distance may now be at hand, waiting to be tackled.
The children of Israel and their new leader, Joshua, came to such a time as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. Moses, who led them for forty years, was about to die. The Jordan needed to be crossed and nations conquered before God’s people could be at peace in their new home.
Moses delivered a message to all Israel, telling them that God would destroy the nations then living in Canaan, and they would dispossess them. God’s humble servant told the people, “The Lord will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes before you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:1-6).
The words of their aged leader to Joshua, their new leader, sound much the same. “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it” (31:7).
The message for the church should be obvious. God’s family can “be strong and of good courage,” just like the children of Israel. The Lord will provide the victory. Our task is to do whatever He has commanded us. He will never leave us or forsake us. Paul told the church at Ephesus, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (6:10). The writer of Hebrews urged, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (13:5-6).
What is your view of God? Do you imagine Him to be an austere being who is poised to catch you in a mistake? Maybe you picture Him like a permissive parent who will overlook every fault. We should consider the truth that our view of God has no bearing upon His actual nature. Allow me to illustrate.
I wear corrective lenses. If you were standing in front of me, I could see you clearly. However, if I were to look at you without wearing my glasses, you would look quite blurry to me. Yet, regardless of my view, you remain the same. God has Divine characteristics whether we recognize them or not.
Paul called upon the readers of the Book of Romans to consider the nature of God. “Behold, then the goodness and severity of God…” (Romans 11:22). Though these qualities seem antithetic, they are not incompatible.
Sadly, many folks have a conception of God that is one or the other. Frequently, I hear people speak of the Father as being love. It is true that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). However, true love is not characterized by a “bury the head in the sand” attitude regarding sin. It is also true that “the wrath of God” will abide on many (John 3:36). So, God has the capacity for love and wrath.
God is a Being of perfection in all His attributes – perfectly balanced and whole. He is a loving God and is longsuffering, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). To make salvation available, He sent His Son to pay the price for human sinfulness (John 3:16). The New Testament Gospel is the plan whereby individuals can secure salvation. The Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth…” (Romans 1:16). Obedience, however, is optional (Romans 6:16). Paul tried to persuade people to obey (2 Corinthians 5:11; Acts 26:28), but he could not force them to obey. When Jesus returns, He will be “rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Anyone whose view is that God’s love will not allow Him to banish anyone to eternal suffering has an erroneous view of God. He allowed His Son to suffer and die upon the cross (demonstrating His goodness), but no one can escape punishment who turns his back on His Son (His severity).